Monday, August 18, 2008

Have Times Really Changed?

Last week I was reading a post written by Tricia at Shout. After reading an Associated Press article about Raymond Daniel Thurmond, a Georgia man who was charged with holding his wife and four children captive in squalor for three years inside their mobile home, she posed a question to her readers.

Do we ignore our neighbors too much?

Her readers had much to say. Many were sickened and couldn't understand how this could go on for three years and not ONE neighbor noticed anything suspicious. Some believed that due to privacy issues, neighbors just don't want help. And others believed that we just do not have a sense of community these days. We no longer look after one another. The Village no longer helps raise the child.

This struck a deep chord with me.

There has always been abuse and neglect. That has never been different. We are just more exposed to these horrible stories because of our access to so many forms of media. We hear about it more often than we did years ago.

Now, that being said, I do agree that communities did exist that stood watch over one another. I believe those communities still exist in some places.

What I also believe is that there are many who, in the past and present, turned a blind eye toward unpleasant situations that did not directly concern them. People are afraid to get involved. They tell themselves that if they ignore it, it will go away. It won't be real.

What can they do anyway?

I grew up in a very abusive household. My father was an alcoholic. He was abusive in many ways to my mother. To my siblings. To me.

My father's family lived all around us. Literally. His parents, my grandparents, lived next door to us on the right. His aunt, uncle, and cousins lived in the other half of our house, a duplex, to the left.

The walls were not concrete. The sounds, I'm sure, carried. The yelling, the crying, the anger.

No one came. No one stopped him. No one protected the children. No ONE.


Karen Sugarpants said...

That was also a time when people didn't interfere with other people's kids. Otherwise my grandparents would have fought to have my brother and I taken away. My Granny told me that last year.

mamikaze said...

(hugs) no one stepped in to stop our household's pain either. people are fearful of what harm could come to them by interfering.

Zephra said...

Hell, CPS was called to my house when I was a kid and still nothing was done. I guess the black eyes and busted lips (not to mention me telling CPS I was too afraid of my Mom to tell them what was really going on) was not enough.

I try to keep my eyes open and have been the one to call the cops on 2 different occasions when I thought a woman was getting beat. I am glad I did because I would hope someone would do the same for me or my family.

Annie said...

I'm sorry you had to deal with that - and your commenters, too. Nobody should suffer at the hands of someone who is supposed to love them.

I think you are completely right - it is a discomfort level and people don't want getting dragged into something. Shame on them.

Queen-Size funny bone said...

I think a lot has to do with the fact that sometimes the person who sticks their nose in ends up being the one that is punished. Often the result doesn't seem to help many situations. I'm always getting in trouble trying to do the right thing.

Midwest Mommy said...

Wow. That is all I can say. I am shocked they did nothing and could live with hearing all of that.

Jennifer, Playgroups Are No Place For Children said...

I don't even know what to say. I don't understand how this can happen...but yet I totally understand.

I am so sorry this happened to you.

Laura said...

I am struggling on what to say in my comment...I just want to hug you and offer you support...your post really hit me hard. Yes, we sometimes ignore troubles around us - and it is not right. We each need to take a stand and offer a safety net to anyone, no matter their child should have to bear what you did.


Jen said...

I'm so, so sorry that this happened to you and that no one helped. You deserved help and it just flat out sucks that you didn't get it.

I don't know how different things are today though. A week or so ago I called the cops when I thought that some very young neighbor kids had been left home alone all night. (They had.) The cop I spoke to seemed suprised that I called and said "Most people wouldn't have bothered." I don't say that to praise myself but just to point out that I think a lot of people are still happier looking the other way. I don't know what that is and it upsets me.

Karly said...

Its hard to imagine family not intervening in some way, but it happens. I don't think times have changed all that much, whether its family ignoring the problem or neighbors.

The Fritz Facts said...

A friend just gave her victim impact statement at her husbands trial. His family tuned out the abuse for 5 yeras, until he really tried something. The fact that they could bare witness to some of the abuse, and still turn their backs shocks me to my core.

I can only hope that I teach my children to help when they hear someone in need, that no one deserves to be treated anyway that can cause pain.

Your posts touches so much of what I have been thinking of lately. Thank you

Kelley said...

I have no idea what to say. I hurt for you babe.

I have tried to post an eloquent comment but I am at a loss...

Jay said...

It's all very sad. I believe a lot of the fault is with our 'Nanny State' way of life. People have been conditioned to leave everything to the government or social services and to see anything like that as Someone Else's Problem - and also to be fearful of prosecution themselves if they interfere and get something wrong.

I do think things were better in many ways when communities were more self-reliant. They knew who the paedophile was and kept an eye on him and warned their kids. They knew who could be relied on, who was lightfingered, who was 'simple' (as they put it in those days) and who needed a little more care and attention and help.

My mother still remembers being sent as a child to stay with old Mrs X who was sick and needed someone to sleep over with her and raise the alarm if necessary, or take a dinner to Mr Y, and she remembers being told 'on no 'count go near Mr Z, the awd divil!'

Tricia said...

Mrs. Schmitty, thanks for writing this!

I agree with you 500 percent. We ignore difficult situations rather than confront them. We're afraid to get involved because we don't want the "trouble". We turn away, even when it's our own families, our own children in trouble. I'm so sorry for the abuse you suffered and I'm so sad nobody stepped in. Nobody came. It makes me absolutely furious...for you and for all the children living with abuse RIGHT NOW.

I co-authored a series of articles on family violence on my blog, and although many, many people have read the articles, very few commented, and I think it's for the same reasons you've stated...the mentality mirrors your situations. ..."They tell themselves that if they ignore it, it will go away. It won't be real."

It's real. It won't go away.

Amy said...

I too have been thinking of just the right things to say in this comment ... but it has been said! I am so sorry for you and for everyone who has and does suffer with abuse. I agree that abuse was as much of an issue in the past as it is now and I agree that we need to break the silence.

I applaud everyone who is telling their stories, helping others and really opening the communications about abuse.

I do still believe in community and think it is lacking in our society but I do not wish to claim that this is the only issue or that it in itself stops abuse.

Thank you for writing this!

kristi said...

I have called CPS on a neighbor. Her child was maybe 2 years old and outside alone and almost got hit by a car several times. I went and knocked on her door and EVERY DAMN TIME she was asleep. I have called CPS on a member of my own family when she abandoned her kids and they were starving. When innocent babies are involved, I felt I had no choice.

Day Dreamer said...

I'm so sorry.

I don't understand people. I don't think I ever will.

We lived in an aparatment building where there were four other unitss attached. Surely the neighbors heard my dad throw the dog down the stairs?? I guess were (and are) afraid?

It's just very sad, really.


Mrs. Schmitty said...

Karen: I am so sorry you too had to live this way. Thank you for letting me read your post. Hugs!

Mamikaze: Hugs to you too, I'm sorry you too had to endure the pain. I just can't imagine not helping out a child.

Zephra: What does it take for CPS to do something. That is horrible! I am so sorry. You did the right thing stepping in for that woman!

Annie: Thank you.

Queen-size Funny Bone: I'm sure you are right, but I wouldn't care. I would help out. No one says you have to physically get involved, but at least call an authority!

Midwest Mommy: It is shocking to me. I could never knowingly ignore a child in that situation.

Jennifer: Thank you.

Laura: Thanks for the hugs! You are so right!

Jen: That's so upsetting that the police were surprised someone called. That just goes to show you that doing the right thing is rare. I find that disgusting.

Karly: You think with family it wouldn't be an issue. It's just denial and shame, I guess.

Kellyn: Thank YOU for your comment. Hugs to your friend, she is VERY brave!

Kelley: Thanks sweetie, your comment alone is enough!

Jay: People did seem to take care of others more often. I try to teach my children that. My hubby is old school like that. He always shovels snow for the elderly couple next door. He has my boys help. It's rubbed off on them. When we walk to school my boys will do little things like bring newspapers from the curb to the front door. Hold door for people. It makes me so proud.

Tricia: People are afraid to voice their opinions on such a sore subject. Major problem with our society!

Amy: Thank YOU for commenting. It means a lot!

Kristi: You rock girl! Thank you for doing the right thing. I applaud you!

Day dreamer: Thank you. I am so sorry that happened. I can't understand the extent of some people's anger. I also can't understand the extent of some people's ignorance!

Justice Jonesie said...

This was eye opening. I have to admit that I don't know my neighbors enough to know if something was different. I guess if I didn't see a spouse anymore I would assume they separated. It's heartbreaking to hear stories of abuse. Hugs to all!

Pamela said...

Even now, as an adult living in the same community where I grew up, people can't believe what went on inside our house. It makes me shake my head, because I just don't understand.

For us, the cycle has been stopped. My brothers and I work really hard to ensure that our children will not grow up in fear and pain.

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

Very thought provoking...and sad.

I think as long as there are responsible, caring people who will step in, intervene, and help, there is hope.

But these extreme cases that make the news are just mind boggling to me.

DraMa said...

I feel very lucky to live in one of those neighborhoods that really cares about each other. Well, my particular block does, the rest of the neighborhood may not. If I heard something like that going on you are damn right I would call and stick my nose in it. However, out of fear of some sort of retaliation (I worked in a DV shelter and know how evil men can be) and considering the day and age of guns in every home, I would remain anonymous to protect my family and myself. But I would never let anyone around me suffer like that. Never.

If I don't know what is going on, then I can't do anything though. Sometimes it is silent and you just don't realize the pain behind the doors.

I'm astonished by all the commenters who have lived with abuse and/or neglect in their lives.

Women are murdered by their "men" in this town every week due to abuse. There was even a woman who was seeking counseling at our shelter one time and I came into work one day only to see the newspaper with a story of her death by her man. Or I should say poor excuse of a man. It was heartbreaking. She sought help and he still got to her.

It makes me ill. All of it. I'm sorry for the pain you had to endure. I really am.

Sometimes I wonder if my neighbors think I'm beating my kids and they just ignore it. When my windows are open and I'm barking at the kids or we are all having a bad day it probably sounds like an abusive household! LOL!

Mrs. Schmitty said...

Justice Jones: I live in a pretty close knit neighborhood so I would know if something were different. Thank you for commenting!

Pamela: Congratulations for breaking the cycle. I too have done that. I try so hard that even if I happen to yell at one of my kids, I feel guilty. :)

Jamie: I know what you mean. It is so unreal to me, that's why I steer clear of the newspapers and news on tv a lot. I just can't stomach it.

Drama: That is so very sad. Kudos to you for helping those women in the shelters. It's very brave of you.

Leslie said...

I've written a comment and then erased it about five times...I'm just going to say this:

I think it's horrific that things like this can happen and I am sorry that bad things happened to you. A home should be a place of comfort. It's too bad it's not for so many people.

meleah rebeccah said...

that is extremely frightening.

Ive never been more thankful that I live in a community of nosey neighbors!

Tricia said...

Mrs. Schmitty...I've created a page at Shout with links to people's posts about family voilence, and included this post. You can find it here:

If you know of more, please let me know.

Mrs4444 said...

I know this sounds really weird, but I've often thought about how different my life would be, had someone reported my dad, and I (like my dear friend Lois) had my entire family uprooted; all nine kids sent to different foster homes for the rest of their childhoods. As I look back, I realize that I'm glad no one called, because I love the way it all turned out. That said, I would definitely call to report child abuse (I do it all the time at school). It's shameful that people turn a blind eye.