We at Horowitz Law aren’t in the habit of promoting TV shows or movies.
That said, however, we hope you’ll tune into the Oxygen channel on December 6th at 7 p.m. Eastern for a documentary called “The Case Died With Her.”
(People Magazine summarizes the film well: https://bit.ly/33a5VtY)
It’s about a predator, James Wilder III, who still walks free, still lives in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, apparently still has a teaching license, and may have killed a woman.
(We say “predator,” not “alleged predator,” because Wilder admitted molesting a then 16 year old girl, in an 87 minute secretly-recorded conversation she had with him under police supervision.)
It’s also about that girl, Emilie Morris, who mysteriously died in 2014 shortly before her criminal case against Wilder was to be resolved.
The story raises two crucial questions. First, can we ever just assume that a victim of child sexual abuse is finally OK and not in need of our concern? And second, can’t we somehow, as a society, speed up the way suspected child molesters are brought to trial?
Let’s look at the second question first.
We at Horowitz Law specialize in civil litigation – exposing wrongdoers, fostering healing, and protecting the vulnerable in civil courts – where harm can be deterred, cover ups can be revealed, justice can be done, and victims can be compensated.
We are not experts in criminal law (though we very often gently prod victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to contact criminal authorities, so that the dangerous may be prosecuted, convicted and kept away from the vulnerable.)
But it seems to us that somehow, cases against child molesters – who cause SO much devastation and who are SO apt to keep on offending – can and should be put on a faster track than cases against purse-snatchers and car jackers.
You’ll learn, if you watch this documentary, that about two years elapsed between Wilder’s confession and Emilie’s death. Maybe a speedier criminal process played into that.
And maybe, during those two years, Wilder may have assaulted another girl. We don’t know.
Emilie’s relatives clearly believed and supported her throughout her ordeal and the tragically self-destructive after-effects of the abuse that plague nearly every abuse victims. They are to be commended for their love for Emilie, their concern for others and their courage in speaking out.
Frustratingly, they report that shortly before her death, Emilie really seemed to have her life back on track.
That brings us to the first question: Can we ever just assume, after X number of years, that a victim of child sexual abuse is finally OK and not to be worried about?
The answer is of course unknowable. But here’s what we believe: Abuse does lifelong harm. The harm, even well into adulthood, can re-surface at any time. And having usually lived with secrets for years or decades, victims aren’t necessarily forthcoming to loved ones about when they’re having a hard time.
So what are we who know and love victims of abuse to do?
Our answer: Check in with them from time to time. And specifically – but gently – bring up the abuse.
Worry less that “If I bring up her abuse again, will I be making her sad?”
Worry more that “Maybe she doesn’t want to bring up her abuse. Maybe she’s ashamed or frustrated that it still affects her even though she’s now 55. Maybe if I bring it up, she’ll feel free to tell me how she’s really feeling. And maybe I can help somehow.”
Please watch the film. And please join us in hoping that Wilder will end up behind bars so others are safe and in hoping all the best for Emilie’s brave, supportive family members who are still hurting.