In one sense the cries of “blame-shifting” are in effect a sort of victim-shifting — removing the focus from the victims and what they suffered to the feelings of those who were best-positioned to protect them but who, by their own admission, failed to do so. I have argued elsewhere that it is impossible to provide a world in which our children are safe 100 percent of the time. Evil is real and always closer than we suspect. Bad things happen, even when as parents and caregivers we are trying our best to make sure they don’t. But even as we try, we sometimes make mistakes.
I know that as a parent I have made many, and I wish I could go back and do some things differently. There were times my mistakes led to my child’s being exposed to something I wish he hadn’t, or having an experience I would have preferred to shield him from. I have to live with that knowledge, albeit on a less devastating scale than the parents of children who have been sexually victimized, physically harmed or killed. When I think of the parents of such children, my heart breaks for them. I can’t begin to imagine their pain. There but for the grace of God go I.
Yet if we want to protect children, we have to ask what could have been done differently. Asking “where were the parents?” is not about blaming or shaming. It’s about trying to keep it from happening to someone else.