The Jayme Closs case strikes a chord with almost everyone.
A family in the small northwestern Wisconsin town of Barron went to sleep one October night and were awakened by a stranger who allegedly broke open the front door in all-black clothing, murdered the mother and father, kidnapped the teenage daughter and held her in captivity until she escaped 88 days later.
“It’s the thing we’re all most afraid of,” said UW-Madison clinical nursing professor Pamela McGranahan.
She studies trauma-informed care and has worked with children who have endured trauma, but never worked with a kidnapping victim, such as 13-year-old Jayme Closs, who was found alive Thursday.
The Closs case that has captured national and local media attention stokes fear because of its arbitrariness, McGranahan said.
Reports so far draw few, if any, connections between the suspect, 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, and Closs. Her relatives say the family does not know Patterson. A criminal complaint filed Monday says Patterson spotted her getting on a school bus one day and made up his mind to take her.
“It’s the thing most far out there, especially in a small town,” she said. “It means any of us are vulnerable. Our collective consciousness on this is ‘Oh my God,’ which is why we’re all still watching, myself included.”
But McGranahan advises families to also be conscious of the 24/7 news cycle.
“Our own kids (and) our own families are being bombarded with this and, on some level, it makes all of us afraid,” she said.
McGranahan encouraged parents to set aside time to answer their children’s questions and address their fears. They should be mindful, she said, of how much information children absorb even if they may not appear to be listening.
She suggested people look at Barron’s strong ties as an opportunity to re-connect with their own community.
McGranahan also recommended parents review basic safety procedures with children. Teach basic “stranger danger” safety tips without alarming kids. Reach out to the neighbor across the street. Re-assess how much is shared online about your family.
“It’d be easy to minimize that this never happens, but it did,” she said. “Pull out the positives of it — that the community rooted for her and waited for her, that there’s always people who care about us, that she escaped and survived.”