May 20, 2013
It is almost impossible to imagine what happened to one young woman, Michelle Knight, and two teenage girls, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry who had been kidnapped and imprisoned for close to 10 years under indescribable conditions that included rape, beatings, and starvation, not to mention the despair and other psychological trauma imposed on them by the “alleged” perpetrator, Ariel Castro, owner of the house of horror.
Those events are and should be truly shocking.
It is very hard to believe that during all those years not one person noticed something wrong and reported it. There were some clues. In the May 7, 2013 New York Times article, Before Escape, Fleeting Clues to Long Ordeal, the authors write: “one neighbor remembered occasional late-night deliveries of groceries to the boarded-up shoe box of a house in a rough-edge West Side neighborhood here. “Another noticed a porch light that burned at night, even though many of the windows were covered.” Still another said his sister had once seen a figure in an upstairs window, pounding on the glass.” If any of those witnesses had reported any of this, the ordeal for those women would have ended a lot sooner.
Finally on May 6, 2013 a neighbor, Angel Cordero, heard screams coming from the house but was unable to understand what was being said since he did not speak English. Right then another neighbor appeared on the scene and together they made a hole in the front door allowing one of the women to crawl out with her baby girl, born in captivity and conceived by rape. They all rushed to a neighbor’s house; Amanda called 911 and said:
“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,
I have been kidnapped and I have been missing for 10 years, and I am here, I am free now.”
She was afraid that the “alleged” perpetrator would return to the house and lock her up again. When the police arrived they stormed the house, discovered the two other victims.
The statistics of abuse in this country and others are staggering.
According to Safe Horizon
- Four children die every day in the United States as a result of child abuse and neglect
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse I Incest National Network):
- Each year there are approximately 208,000 victims of sexual assaults
- 54% of those assaults are not reported to police
- 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victims
According to National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, there are approximately
- 800,000 reported missing children each year.
Dr. Frank Ochberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University and former associate director of the National Institute of Mental Health and an expert on trauma, said in an interview with Ray Suarez of NPR, “We pay much attention to a case like this because it’s unusual. It involves children being taken out of their home. But Ray, and the people who are listening, there are millions of children who are living in their homes, and they are subjected to repeated rape in their home. We have an incest story that is staggering. And we don’t like to look at it. But, when I saw this case, I thought, oh my goodness, a lot of my patients are going to be watching and they are going to be saying, that’s me. That’s what happened to me and it happened on my own home.”
Why is it that we are so reluctant to intervene or simply report when we suspect abuse? Is it just the selfish reason of not getting involved because of the short disruption it might cause in our lives? Is it because of fear of possible retaliation? We do not need proof that a crime has been (or is being) committed, just a suspicion obligates us morally and sometimes legally to report it.
Every state has a department of Social Services and will treat our call confidentially. If we do not have that number handy, we can always call 911!
We are all called to rescue. Wouldn’t we want to be the ones to hear the words Michelle Knight pronounced as she jumped into the police officer’s arms:
“You saved me, you saved me!”