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Not that McDonald’s colorful Playland area is supposed to be the safest place on earth, but there’s something incredibly sad about knowing that something meant to let children be free to frolic and be innocent can be used as a grounds for predators. But then again, with some parents preoccupied with phone conversations and overly-big Big Macs sometimes and no one to watch who comes in and out, I guess it makes sense that these areas would be a predator’s own playground.

A young girl and her grandmother learned that the hard way at a McDonald’s near downtown Cincinnati on Oct. 29. While playing in the Playland area, the 5-year-old girl was approached by a young man around the ages of 12 to 15 who “digitally” assaulted her (as in using digits or fingers in case you weren’t sure) and then forced the girl to do the same to him anally. The child’s grandmother said that she knew something was wrong when the little girl came back to her looking especially upset as the Playland was preparing to close. She later told the police that she saw the young man leaving the Playland, but before she could figure out that he had done something (and shouldn’t have been that old in the freaking Playland in the first place), he had already left. The young man, once again, is said to be between the ages of 12 and 15, white, with black hair and blue eyes, wearing light blue jeans, a gray long-sleeve T-shirt and a jacket. The franchise owner and employees of this McDonald’s (in Anderson Township) are said to be fully cooperating with police.

How horrific for both the child and her grandmother. I can’t imagine the confusion and fear going through that young girl’s mind while she was being sexually assaulted by someone more than double her age. I also can’t imagine where in the hot hell her grandmother was. Playland areas, whether at McDonald’s or the open outdoor park, are obviously not the end all to be all of safety. No matter where you take children, whether they are your offspring, your grandchildren, your nieces, your nephews or a friend’s baby, children have to be watched at all times somebody. Call me overprotective, but I don’t see how this could have happened if this child’s grandmother had been walking around watching her slide through tubes and scamper around. Children are soooo easily influenced. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched my niece try and play with some random kids she met while trying to get through a tube at Chuck E. Cheese. For this young man to have enough time to penetrate the child and have her do the same to him, there was clearly not enough adults around watching the Playland and the kids in it.  And aside from these horrific assaults, children can get hurt playing around in those tight spaces with other kids. In the end, she was five, not 10. There was no reason she should have been able to run into the Playland and not been supervised by at least one person.

I’m not trying to say that it’s all her grandmother’s fault (apologies if it even sounds like that). You can also ask why doesn’t McDonald’s have employees watching the kids in the Playland too? I’m not talking some big, burly security guard, but just an employee to ensure there is no rough housing or that people who probably shouldn’t have the ability to play with such small children (like a 130 pound 12 to 15-year-old for example) can’t. Fingers could be pointed for days, but in the end, I’m really just trying to say that we all need to be more attentive out here these days. I can only hope that others can take this incident as an example of why all eyes should stay open when it comes to the protection of children. Even it wasn’t her grandmother, or an employee supervising the play area, someone should have been looking out for this child. I know it’s hard enough to watch one child (your own) when you send them off into these recreational areas covered with nets, plastic and cushioned walkways, but any child attacked by a young man like this could have been your child, so it never hurts to keep an eye out for other people’s babies, because you just never know. These days, it literally takes a village to raise and watch out for a child, because things and people have totally changed.

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