In response to the Casey Anthony Verdict, Americans are angry.
Lynch mob angry.
One juror has been reported to have gone into hiding due to threats made against her, and states are passing laws to try to make sure that a woman like her could never get away again. But in all the anger and wrath over the verdict, there is nothing that the mob can do to bring young Caylee back, and therein lies the hypocrisy. We rage in response to a horrific crime, but the crime only occurred because we refused to prevent it.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be angry about this. Many Hell fearing people have claimed that there is a special place in the Inferno for her, and those of us who don’t believe in Hell are willing to pretend just for her sake. But if there is one constant in any act of child abuse it is this : THERE ARE ALWAYS SIGNS. These signs start small as the abuse begins, and the more the signs get ignored, the worse the abuse gets. Casey Anthony may have committed the crime, but the people around her enabled her by ignoring the signs of the impending murder.
This story is one I have far heard too often when working with trauma victims. As they spent their years in pain and fear, they looked back to the signs they gave to neighbors, teachers, and others around them. Some they gave off the characteristic signs of abuse, but others were more overt, confessing their abuse. They were overlooked and ignored. In some cases, their parents were told of the claim, invoking brutal retribution. These aren’t isolated cases. In studies, a child who reveals abuse is 1/2 as likely to receive help as a child whose abuse is discovered.
So why do we ignore the cries of out children in pain? I would point to the story of Kitty Genovese, and the bystander effect that has since been studied. We don’t like to get involved. We pretend it’s none of our business. We worry about what may happen to us if we take the risk and help another. We blame the victim. We do everything but respond. We do everything but prevent. We let it happen time after time after time.
And yet, when the worst happens, when our tendency to ignore leads to a horrific crime, we turn a wrathful eye onto the perpetrator. And though the abuser needs to meet justice, our rage goes beyond what justice would call for, and that is because we desperately need to place our sins upon hers.
The abuse can be stopped.
The abuse can be prevented.
We refuse to do it, and when the worst happens we hypocritically lash out, because we would otherwise have to face our responsibility in letting it happen.
But there is an alternative. It is an alternative that calls for courage, but is it is the alternative that will prevent the death of children like Caylee, not just react to them.
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.