The Loss of Jorelys Rivera and the "Possible, Not Probable"

5 years ago

This past weekend in a little city called Canton, just north of Atlanta, 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera, was snatched -- in broad daylight -- from her apartment complex’s playground while in the care of a babysitter as her mother rested after working a nightshift. Then she was sexually assaulted and murdered. Her beaten body was shoved in a Dumpster. A special kind of trash can that compacted debris. She was found after a two-day search.

The experts will tell the parents of Canton that what happened this past weekend to Jorelys is “possible not probable.”

They will remind us all that “usually” abductions and abuses are carried out not by strangers but by those who have gained a child’s trust. And this, somehow, makes the rest of us, whose children are tucked safely in warm beds, feel better, feel safer.

Whoever the soulless human who took Jorelys’ life turns out to be, one thing here in Canton is quite probable: For a long, long while, we mothers of Canton won’t be the same. We cannot be. It’s as if the air we breathe is changed. And if this same sad story has occurred in your hometown, you know just what I’m talking about.

Reports say Jorelys was taken when her babysitter went inside for a minute to grab some sodas for the kids in her charge to drink.

Grab. A. Coke. Be. Right. Back.

While their children ride bikes, jump rope, shoot hoops, how many times have mothers in Canton, mothers all over the country, gone inside to grab a drink? Answer the phone? Go to the bathroom? Get a Kleenex to wipe a snotty nose?

How many mothers in Canton were just about ready to let their capable, bright, bold and beautiful 7-year-olds walk home from the bus stop alone on the next nice day? How many parents were discussing if their 11-year-olds were responsible enough to head just three blocks away for an afternoon at the park with friends but without parents? As Jorelys’ lifeless body was pulled from the trash, how many local parents remembered how they roamed their own neighborhood streets all those years ago from dawn until dusk, never even checking in?

And, tonight, how many local mothers never will have the confidence to give their own children that sense of freedom and independence? Not because we want to give into fear. Not because we want to give our power away to a monster. But because how could we go on living if this horrible thing happened to our own babies? How can we feel it’s OK to take that chance when, all around us in just one Canton zip code, 70 registered sex offenders are living? Not to mention the animals who haven’t been caught -- who aren’t “in the system.”

Is it better then to smother our children with love, and hand holding, and never-going-anywhere-alone, to drill into them that scary people are real than to let them go and hold our breaths?

In Canton, tonight, I know the answer is, “Yes.” Yes by God. Smother your babies in love. Smother them with all your heart can give. Because, the terrifying truth is, it only takes a split second, the time it takes to pop open a Coke, for everything to change. Even if you’re standing right there, everything can change.

Brooke Bernard’s greatest prayer is for all those who love Jorelys Rivera to someday find peace. And also for castration to become a legal form of punishment, even though she’s probably not supposed to pray for that.

Brooke Bernard writes most Wednesdays for Mamas Against Drama at You can find her on Twitter at

Empty swing set photo via Shutterstock.

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