Amanda Knox Could Have Been Your Daughter, Or You

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Amanda Knox was acquitted today in the murder of her English roommate who was sexually assaulted and stabbed to death in their Italian apartment. And regardless of if you think the 24-year-old deserved to endure four years incarceration, her involvement in such a horrendous scenario could happen to any child who ventures into another country.

The first time I heard about Amanda Knox, I thought of my own study abroad experience as a young woman. Like Amanda, I was also a 20-year-old girl living abroad in 2007.  I made friends quickly that I trusted merely on the basis that we were all young, all abroad, and all so struck by the wonderment of a new country. I lived with people that I deemed trustworthy through a language that was not my own and I often signed a variety of documents that I read over and over again, hoping that I wasn’t missing anything.

I learned very quickly that although it was thrilling to be foreign, there was also a looming fear that sometimes visited me while I waited for friends in bars or in restaurants. Although proficient in the language at the time, the feeling that I was always somewhat detached, always a little bit behind, and didn’t entirely belong in my surroundings could at times consume me.

Amanda’s experience is, of course, extreme. The young woman claims that she was beaten and mistreated by officials and made to sign documents that incriminated her. She has also stated that an interpreter was not present during her questioning which violated her human rights.

But the experience of drifting between languages and answering to officials in words that one hopes are correct is not unique to Amanda. And reading over her testimony and her awful treatment by Italian law, I wonder what I would have done had I come back to my apartment in Paris and discovered one of my roommates to have been savagely murdered. What would my 20-year-old self had said to convey to French police officers that I wasn’t the bad person that they were looking for, that I was frightened, that I wanted to speak to my family.

Amanda’s acquittal is hopeful, but her unfortunate circumstances remind me how trouble can often find young people in unfamiliar settings. I’m relieved at her release, but her ordeal lingers for every young person who dares to live far from family and friends.