Thursday, May 09, 2013

"Get Outta' My Backyard" Part 2

So there is a worthwhile side to our decided preference that everybody mind their own business. We'd really not be in the position of passing judgement on our Governor's sexual peccadilloes (Although barefaced lying and betraying his wife, kids, and state does make it a lot easier). If he comes back later apologizing in credible fashion and promising to do better, there's a good chance that we'll let him try again. After all, who are we to judge, we're all only human, he's so folksy, etc etc.

But there's also this side: The man on the left kidnapped and abused 3 teen-aged girls for 10 long years in a crowded and active neighborhood of Cleveland and nobody saw a thing. Ariel Castro, who owns the house, was popular and involved in the community.  Fellow musicians and relatives visited, police came out out a couple of times for unrelated reasons, but no one noticed anything amiss. A few neighbors claim they did notice something -- a nude woman crawling in the backyard, odd sounds coming from the house -- and called the police; The police say they can't find any record of these calls.

Headlines are prone to characterize the event as "Missing Girls Found!" I've noticed, but they were not found.  Nobody stumbled upon their jail or followed all the clues until they discovered them. No, this only happened because they escaped -- and one man was there with the guts to help them. Otherwise they would still be prisoners today. A church pastor from the neighborhood named Angel Arroyo said,"We didn't search hard enough. She was right under our nose the whole time."

If all this sounds vaguely familiar it may be because it is. Just 2 years ago in 2009 Jaycee Dugard escaped from a disturbingly similar situation. She had been held captive for 18 years and raped repeatedly. The year before that Elisabeth Fritzl was freed in Amstetten, Austria after 24 years of confinement and sexual abuse. In each case these women and the children they gave birth to were freed due to the alertness and nosiness of  random people who noticed that something was not right and stepped up to do something about it. And as some commentators on the good news from Cleveland have reminded us, so very many women and children are abused all around the world  and too often nobody notices -- or notice but are sheepish about getting in someone else's backyard.

At one point I was going to end this post with a rousing call for "more nosy neighbors and more cops walking a beat."  But that's probably too glib. I really can't think of an answer for this. We certainly don't want everyone monitoring and informing on each other, but I want to catch every kidnapped girl, every abused child and woman, every bullied student, every victim of sexual trafficking. How can we find the balance between personal privacy and knowing enough about our neighbors to recognize that something's not right? It happens sometimes; it needs to happen more. What do we need to change? Can this really be the best we can do?

*UPDATE: Replaced my original photo since, according to police, only Ariel Castro was involved.

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