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.