LET’S TALK ABOUT SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER

Oscar Higueros Jr., volunteer Cayucos fireman arrested on charges of rape.

Oscar Higueros Jr., volunteer Cayucos fireman arrested on charges of rape.

by Stacey Warde

Yes, let’s talk about Somebody’s Daughter.

Larry Narron’s fictional account of a woman, abused as a child by her father, confronting the ailing, aged man in his later years, could have come right out of a bedroom scene here in Cayucos, as we learned last week when Oscar Higueros, Jr., a volunteer fireman, was arrested for the rape of a 17-year-old girl, and charged with 33 felonies, including forced sodomy and oral copulation, threatening a witness, and possession of cocaine.

A lot has been said about the merits of the case and about Higueros’ character but little about the alleged victim. What people seem to have forgotten is that the victim is somebody’s daughter, not unlike the one in Larry’s story. Little has been said about this child and how we might in the future protect her and other youth in our community from child sexual abuse.

These alleged crimes took place in a home not far from any of us. Why not give some due consideration to the real victim in this case, and to other potential victims who live in our community? Why do we so quickly dismiss the victims in our midst and go to the defense of an accused rapist just because he’s a fireman?

And, why in the digitally social world of data inundation do we resort to flaming, illogic and basic  stupidity when commenting on these events? You would think from many responses defending Higueros in the week since his arrest that he’s the victim. “He’s a fireman. No fireman would put someone at risk like that,” I’ve heard. “We don’t need to know what he did,” I’ve also heard.

“I hate the fact that such personal information can be public knowledge,” wrote one commenter after I’d posted a news item about the case on my Facebook wall.

A lesson in Civics 101 ensued, in which we discussed the importance in a free society of knowing when someone is arrested and what for. Eventually, the commenter removed her comments, but the protest against media hype continues, even as details of the case come mostly from press releases distributed by the district attorney’s office.

I’ve also heard others warn: Don’t point your fingers until you know all the facts. I don’t know all the facts but I do know when to be cautious, when to pay attention, and when to withhold judgment. Also, there’s the implied “don’t judge unless you want the skeletons in your own closet to be exposed.” Well, now, there’s an idea.

Comments on news sites covering the case show even more ignorance, not only of what goes on under our noses, but of the process of jurisprudence and of how we stay informed and safe in a democratic society. Flamers attacked news site KSBY, for example, for “sensationalizing,” when the facts of the case itself, coming to us directly from the district attorney’s office, are sensational enough. It won’t matter what KSBY or any news outlet reports, flamers will still accuse them of doing it only “because they want publicity.”

Some news agencies do that but most reporters I’ve known over the years do it because they want the community to know the truth, even when it’s an unpleasant truth. Is Higueros guilty? Not until a jury decides.

Regarding the alleged victim, I’ve heard: “Well, she’s probably some tart from the Bay Area, who was looking for some thrills and asking for it.”

No, she’s somebody’s daughter. We’re not talking schoolboy prank here. A child was manipulated and violated, according to the DA. Regardless of whether she was an angel, it doesn’t matter. She’s still a child. Yet, there’s more wringing of hands for an alleged rapist, because he’s a “good guy,” or a hard worker, or a volunteer fireman.

So-called “nice” people do bad things, even firemen. And young girls do get into trouble and it’s our job to make sure they don’t; it’s our job to protect them from predators who want to use them for their own profit and pleasure.

The judge set bail at $1 million, then raised it to $1.2 million during Higueros’ arraignment after charges of human trafficking were made against a second perp in the case. That suggests more than a slight moral lapse or minor indiscretion from someone with high marks for serving the community as a paid volunteer fireman.

It’s quite possible, as often happens in these cases, that law enforcement has overzealously trumped up the charges, but I doubt it. It’s the judge’s job to determine the strength and validity of a case, and this judge concurs, at this point, that the accused, Higueros, is a threat to the community. He will likely stay in jail for a very long time, at least until the court sorts out the facts and details of the case to determine his guilt or innocence. Meanwhile, expect to learn more disturbing details about this case in the weeks and months ahead.

This teenage girl, somebody’s daughter, remember, is not unlike the one in Larry’s story, who will similarly grow up one day and be forced to confront the demons of her past. We would do better to imagine how we might help her and prevent another young girl or boy in our community from falling into the clutches of predators than to fret over whether the accused was a good guy or not. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice.

5 comments

  1. Thank you Stacey for your article. I am from San Luis Obispo. Click, click. What people don’t realize is that these young children never forget. Their innocence is not the only thing that has been stolen. Their entire future lives are affected and sometimes destroyed. In time, maybe, they can forgive that person but they never forget.

  2. I have to agree with Mr. Peck, your writing on this not only shows your solid logic, but also your compassion. And in a small community like Cayucos, I’m imagining it can be a bit tricky to go on record with a dissenting view. Good on you for doing it anyway.

    Why do victims so often get left out of the circle of attention in cases like these? It’s bewildering.

    And when we’re talking about sexual abuse and manipulation of minors – children – it’s especially disturbing to see not only a lack of focus, but compassion.

    It drives me nuts to see people cheer on boys who’ve been abused by adult women as having “scored” while heaping insult to injury on girls by claiming they “asked for it” in some way when victimized by men. They’re all just children who deserved much, much more from adults.

    “Somebody’s Daughter” is eerie and haunting. Great writing.

    1. Thank you, Daniella, and just as you imagine, it is hard to give such views in Cayucos. I’ve been attacked verbally and physically, and sabotaged by various ilk in this town simply because they did not like what they read in The Rogue Voice. For an example of sabotage, see my essay Trampling the First Amendment in a small town by the sea, where one upstanding citizen attempted to deny my right to free speech by lifting a stack of magazines and absconding with them. Truth is the best defense against ignorance, I believe, and the rewards for telling it are ten times greater than trying to hide from it. We dismiss victims, I think, because Americans don’t like weakness. We throw our sympathies first with our “heroes,” mostly soldiers, firemen and police, leaving out those who may know only how to endure, whose courage may in fact be greater, people who have voices and have been the primary focus of the magazine. Focus and compassion go a long way toward actions that matter, beyond ignorance and selfishness and indifference, toward a deeper understanding of ourselves and our community. I’d like to see more of it as we grapple with the troubles in our lives, our homes and here in Cayucos. I think Larry Narron’s story evokes exactly the kind of empathy needed for those who have been abused and victimized. Thank you for your comment.

  3. I agree with your position on this case 150%. Thanks for standing up, and not being one of the circling the wagons of Cayucos. This is ugly and is hard for many locals to watch. I admire your intelligence, courage and compassion, regardless of the heat.

    I’m a local photographer and am currently working on a fine art project that deals with this topic. I’m approaching it from a Buddhist point of view, in that DUKKHA (fear, pain and suffering) is a significant part of this life (samsara). The images will be provocative and will no doubt stir the local pot vigorously. The job of art is to provoke, and this should do the trick. More later. Sam

    1. Sam, I appreciate your kind words. It’s good to know we have support, which makes taking the heat a little easier. Thank you. I look forward to discussing your work with you. We need more provocative spotlights that stir the pot and give us pause to reason. Good luck with your project.

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