The discovery of an Austrian man having kept his daughter, and the children he sired by her, captive for over two decades (the abuse itself went on for over 30 years) has prompted many to ask how it could have gone on for so long. Several friends of mine who were not abused as children struggle with the idea of anyone getting away with it, but that he got away with it for so many years seems almost surreal to them.
At the risk of sounding indelicate — are you people serious?
I’ve watched parents in parks and stores smack the living crap out of their children while witnesses gasped, stared, and risked whiplash with how fast they made their getaways – in public, in America. The same people who witnessed the abuse and did nothing suddenly found their voice when they felt it was time to speak up - on behalf of the abuser. I have often been berated for not minding my own business as I called the police.
Why, then, is it so hard to imagine how someone could get away with keeping their abuse a secret when so much effort is put into keeping it hidden? We help the abusers by keeping quiet even when the abuse of a child is in broad daylight. When someone goes out of his/her way to keep it hidden, we’re as good as having told the abuser, “Well done!”
We don’t see what we don’t want to see. It isn’t like the abuse isn’t there to be seen. There are plenty of signs, signals, and symptoms. If, however, you don’t want to see them, you won’t. You’ll tell yourself anything to put as much distance between what you know you saw and what you’d rather believe happened – or that nothing happened.
Children are not the ones with the obligation to speak out, and in fact they are often threatened by those who hurt them to keep quiet. When their abuse is discovered (read: reported by the one decent person who actually gave a crap about what s/he saw) the child is often removed from the one guardian and/or sibling(s) who actually loved them as a way to “protect” them. From there, they’re often placed into a foster home whose residents were run through a screening process rivaled only by a community college admissions form.
The depths with which joy has found ways to my soul
Were mercilessly carved out way too long ago
You're taking for granted that I've always been
This happy go lucky; that's not always been
What uncle called training and auntie called chore
Turned out to be making a six-year-old whore
What the neighbor called favor, the old men called dues
Did mercilessly strip back all color and hue
This voice that you hear now whenever I speak
Isn't mine, it's a scar; when I cough it still bleeds
You don't want to know from where my joy now comes
It is not of this world, it's a world all it's own.*
People who mistreat their children (and then wonder why their children mistreat them and/or themselves later) know damn good and well the rest of us have their backs. Sure, we say we don’t like it and we talk about how those who hurt children should be sent to prison straightaway, but few and far between are those who will put their money where their mouth is by stepping in, making the call, and/or going to court - if it even gets that far.