Crime & Punishment

'Off The Pole'

Crystal Mangum, a former stripper who became infamous in 2006 after she accused white Duke Universit i i

Crystal Mangum, a former stripper who became infamous in 2006 after she accused white Duke University lacrosse players of rape, was recently charged with trying to stab her boyfriend. Sara D. Davis/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Sara D. Davis/AP
Crystal Mangum, a former stripper who became infamous in 2006 after she accused white Duke Universit

Crystal Mangum, a former stripper who became infamous in 2006 after she accused white Duke University lacrosse players of rape, was recently charged with trying to stab her boyfriend.

Sara D. Davis/AP

Mr. Travis Mangum,

You don't know me and I don't know you, but I've been reading and writing about your daughter for the last few years.

During the Duke University lacrosse team rape scandal, I was one of the few writers who suggested your daughter may have not been telling the whole story. Charges were dropped. The men walked free, and your daughter was left with a scarlet letter.

The news of your daughter's arrest made me think of you because I'm the father of a daughter too (although she's still a child). I am struggling now with trying to figure out how to help her make the right choices and not end up dancing for dollars, or worse. So I'm writing to you because I hope you can help me.

As your daughter stands accused of arson and attempted murder, surely you have had an opportunity to consider her upbringing and where - if at all — it may have gone astray.

I was sad to hear that Crystal was in the news again. Mr. Mangum, I imagined you watching your daughter's mugshot flash across the screen and wondered what you must be going through - what you might want to say to her as she sits in jail. But Crystal is now 33, so maybe that boat has sailed.

Still, I wonder if, looking back, you see things you would have done differently. Chris Rock said that so much of your life as the father of a daughter is trying to keep her "off the pole." That's right, by half. A lot of it is respecting whatever choices they make - but you also want to make sure that "your little girls" know how to make the right choices for themselves.

My daughter is becoming a woman, and, as I say in my book, I find myself being a "TMI — too much information — Dad," trying to empower her with information that may not always seem age-appropriate. And then I pause and morph into "Overprotective Dad" and protect my daughter from all the evils of the world by attempting to control everything she sees and hears; but I know that's not the way. I've got to find some balance between preparing her for the world and not blowing her mind. I always feel like I'm at a disadvantage, because her mother and I aren't together and I have to compete with a sphere of influence I don't always trust. But you and your wife stayed together and raised your children and presumably instilled in them values you cherish, but somehow she slipped away. And I bet you have had a lot of time to think about how that happened.

I have other children, and I can tell you the proud moments with our children are easiest. But what's a father to do when your child fails to meet your expectations in ways you could not have imagined? You love her, but what kind of love do you reserve for times such as these? Tough love? Or that unshakable father's love? A little of both, I imagine. But even as you hold her, you must know she needs to be pulled out from under her own worst instincts.

Mr. Mangum, in the past you have offered the press short comments, but no explanation. I understand-you can't answer for grown folks. But I do wish you would say more. I understand that you don't owe anyone an explanation. But, there is a generation of single and married fathers, like me, who struggle against the forces of bad mothers, MTV and sex-tape celebrities. These men and fathers just want their little girls to have a chance to live a life in a world that will still love them if they keep their clothes on. And while you're fixing cars, I imagine you study on that.

Now, I know it must be hard, but man to man: you're older, wiser in the game than me and other fathers like me. Please tell us how to save our daughters.

Best regards,

jimi

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