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Hannah Graham Is My Daughter Too

Photograph by Facebook

I can’t stop thinking about the disappearance of Hannah Graham, the 18-year-old University of Virginia student who was last seen on September 13 as she walked near her Charlottesville campus.

Like Hannah, my own daughter is 18 and attending college. Like Hannah, she is a daughter, a sister, a friend and a granddaughter. And also like Hannah, she has parents who send their child off to school, never dreaming that she might just disappear into thin air. I watched Hannah’s parents on TV pleading for help to “bring Hannah home” and my heart broke.

RELATED: Student to Carry Mattress Until Alleged Rapist Is Expelled

We should all be concerned with Hannah’s disappearance, because it concerns another issue that could easily touch many of us: violence against women on college campuses and the careless manner in which the perpetrators are allowed to get away.

Hannah did not go missing from the actual grounds of UVA, but the man who has been arrested in connection with her disappearance, Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., seems to have a history of sexual assaults on college campuses: In 2002 and 2003 he was accused of sexually assaulting students at two universities in Virginia, Liberty University in Lynchburg and Christopher Newport University.

I can’t stop thinking about so many parents who sit and wait in agony because they’re waiting for their children to come home.

According to school officials, Matthew, who was on the football team at both universities, left each school after the allegations and neither resulted in charges being brought against him.

Authorities are saying there is DNA evidence that links Matthew to yet another crime: the 2009 death of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech college student who went missing after a concert and whose body was later discovered on a farm near campus.

If Matthew is indeed guilty of the campus rapes, it makes me wonder: If he was arrested a dozen years ago, would Morgan still be alive and would Hannah’s parents have their daughter home with them?

RELATED: What Can We Do About Rape on College Campuses?

I can’t stop thinking about this question, and about the safety of our kids while they’re at school. I can’t stop thinking about how many of the others who commit these campus assaults – and then are allowed to walk free – may go on to commit other violent crimes. I can’t stop thinking about so many parents who sit and wait in agony because they’re waiting for their children to come home.

I can’t stop thinking about Hannah, because she could be my daughter, too.

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