Big Mike: Where Have You Gone, Lauren Spierer?

June 9th, 2011

A helicopter hovers over Courthouse Square. News trucks from Indy are staging in an empty lot at a respectful remove from Smallwood Plaza.

Bloomington police investigators have canvassed every home and business in the area. The police are joined by volunteers from the community three times a day, at 10, 1, and 5, to fan out across the town, searching.

A police spokesperson yesterday said the entire city has been covered by searchers and now they want to start nosing through the outlying areas of Monroe County.

This is no manhunt. It’s a girlhunt. More specifically, a little girlhunt.

I’m not trying to be disprespectful to Lauren Spierer, who’s been missing since early Friday morning. She is, after all, a 20-year-old college student. She’s been living on her own here in South Central Indiana for two years now.

Missing

Space

But at five-feet-nothing and no more than 90 pounds she is, by any rational definition, a little girl.

That little girl-ness surely has played a part in her disappearance. And it’s led to a mini-brouhaha on Facebook that deserves to be examined.

One poster — let’s call her Tami — brings up a similar case last September when a 29-year-old woman named Crystal Grubb was reported missing for two weeks. Police conducted daily searches until her body was found in a forested area.

Tami finds it noteworthy that there was no city-wide, grass-roots effort to search for Crystal Grubb. The Bloomington Herald Times reports that “hundreds of people turned out Tuesday” to assist in the search for Lauren. “Why weren’t we outraged progressives out mobilizing then?” Tami asks, referring to the Grubb case.

That’s a good question. Here’s a good answer: Lauren Spierer comes from what appears to be a comfortable, upper middle class family. Her father yesterday even put up a $100,000 reward for information leading to her recovery. Crystal Grubb’s family had to beg for donations because they couldn’t even afford to bury her.

Nothing particularly controversial in that. This is, after all, the Great United States, Inc., land of the free, home of the brave, and fuck you if you’re poor — you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.

After a few comment exchanges with people saying precisely that, Tami changes course and brings up some troubling whispers about the Lauren Spierer case.

Here’s a little background. Lauren was last seen walking near the intersection of 11th Street and College Avenue not far from her Smallwood Plaza home at about 4:30, Friday morning. Piecing together witness’s accounts and security camera video tapes, the Bloomington police have concluded her last hours were spent drinking at Kilroy’s Sports Bar and walking back and forth between her place and a friend’s nearby apartment.

I bet the owners of Kilroy’s wet their pants when they got wind of that. Remember, Lauren is only 20 years old.

The cops threw in a few compelling details. Lauren was barefoot as she walked between the bar and the two apartments. She also appears to have left her shoes and cell phone at Kilroy’s. Not only that, she’d left her keys and her purse on the street enroute between Kilroy’s and her friend’s apartment.

Tami, the Facebook poster, apparently doesn’t care for the conclusions that some people are drawing based on those details. She writes, “… even the Spierer case, with all the money and resources used to find her, hasn’t stopped the press and individuals from assassinating her character and implying that she is to blame for whatever has happened….”

A man comments: “I have always thought that tiny drunk collage [sic] girls wandering around Bloomington was a bad idea.”

This gets Tami going: “… I have always thought that disgusting predators who prey on petite girls walking while drinking was a bad idea….”

Which lights a fire under another man who says he’s had to put any number of drunk college girls into cabs in the middle of the night to ensure they’d get home safely. (Why he was doing that is left unsaid.) He adds: “… you take some friends who aren’t watching your back, throw in copious amounts of booze and the invincibility of youth, and you have a recipe for what just happened.”

A few comments later, another woman joins the fray. “So why is it,” this woman writes [everything sic], “that a man can go out, get drunk, and walk around town unafraid in the first place? oh yeah, because he’s a man. A small girl goes out has a good time and disappears. So people blame alcohol, her bad judgement, walking home alone, and lack of friends having her back?! really?! There is a much larger problem here….”

She goes on to describe the rape culture and the willingness to blame the victim among certain segments of the citizenry.

Now the second man’s indignant. He replies (and I’m squishing together two separate comments here): “The system was broken when I found it. I act accordingly…. I *should* be able to walk to my flat in San Francisco at 2am through the Tenderloin without getting beaten, shot, mugged, or all of the above. But, they system also tells me it’s not very wise…. So, I just don’t do it…. And BTW, this is not victim blaming…. But this is the real world. I don’t know what the fuck has to happen around here for people to understand that simple, little fact.”

(Again, all quotes are sic.)

The first man, the guy who thinks it’s a bad idea for little college girls to walk around while drunk, jumps back in it. He writes: “… most of these people that want the world to just be safe because they say so are not ready for it. This is not a safe place, never was. People like to hurt each other, and it is not my fault that the girl is small and the first target. It all comes down to could she protect herself and she could not so alone walking was a bad fucking idea.”

Then the second guy pitches in. “I hope that she’s alright and is brought home safely,” he writes, “but even if she is, this should still serve as an example of what not to do. It’s a jungle out there. Act accordingly.”

You know, Facebook exchanges generally bore the bejesus out of me, especially when commenters parry with polemics about how Barack Obama is Hitler and Mitch Daniels is Stalin. Or is it vice versa?

But this time — this one time — a lot got said and, mirabile dictu, both sides are right!

More important, though, is this: I hope Lauren Spierer has run away, eloped maybe. I hope she writes a letter in a few days saying she’s sorry for putting everybody through the wringer and would you all forgive me.

But hopes and dreams and prayers are dandelion puffs in the wind. They’re everywhere right now but they still won’t stop a bad human being from taking the life of another who maybe — just maybe — used bad judgment one early morning last week.

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