For 19 years, Samantha Geldenhuys thought she knew who she was. Then came the day in late 2013, when the 20-year-old found out she'd been born Savanna Catherine Todd, and her mother had allegedly kidnapped her when she was 10 months old, moving her from the United States to Australia and never looking back. Think a discovery like that would turn a girl's life upside down? Think again.
Savanna Todd, who is still going by Samantha Geldenhuys, may have spent 19 years living a lie thanks to mom Dorothy Lee Barnett and her alleged kidnapping scheme, but she's coming out to say she's not a victim. In fact, Todd has some pretty amazing things to say about the time she spent on the run with a fugitive who is in jail facing possible extradition to the U.S.
A name does not change who you are. I've always had a mother. I've always been loved. I've always been protected.
That's what she told an Australian news program, and in many ways, it's good to hear. When one parent takes off with another child, there is always the fear that the child will suffer irreparable harm. For her to have come out of this relatively unscathed is remarkable but also heartening.
It's about as good an outcome as you can get.
That said, I'd love to have her bottle up that optimism and start handing it out. Forgiving someone who allegedly kidnapped you and lied to you for 19 years? That takes one Pollyanna spirit!
Don't get me wrong, I don't disagree with Savanna/Samantha here. She has the right to pick how she's going to play this, and no doubt it's better for her psyche to take the higher road.
But can it be that easy? Should we all be taking the high road and forgiving those who trespass against us? It's a nice idea in theory, but in reality, it does little to teach offenders to mend their ways.
Not to mention, you can only forgive sins against you, but most crimes hurt more than one person.
In the Todd's case, her poor father is a victim. For 19 years, Benjamin Harris Todd looked and looked and looked for his daughter and got nowhere. He spent years making public pleas on American talk shows (not knowing, of course, that his daughter was in Australia). As he said in a 1997 interview, the time that his daughter lived with him was "the most joyous time of my life."
Too bad it was only two months because of what prosecutors say his ex-wife did with their baby girl. Barnett has been charged with international parental kidnapping and two counts of false statements in a passport application.
No matter what her daughter thinks, the government disagrees about whether Barnett should be forgiven for her alleged actions.
What do you think of the daughter's response here? Could you forgive someone who'd done something this serious to you?
Image via Center for Missing and Exploited Children