Monday, May 13, 2013

When You're Related to a "Monster"

In the last few months, there has been a lot of media coverage of "monsters." People who have gone out of their way to hurt other people in some really sick, violent ways.

I have to admit, I initially avoided the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and the manhunt, because I didn't want it to turn into another 9/11 TV news time vortex. I don't have local or cable television at my house, because I filtered all those funds into my Internet connection. And let's face it, I can get the highlights (if not the whole telecast) online, most of the time. But I didn't want to sit in front of the ugliness, a slave to the horror. Because let's face it, you could sit in that stupor for days before the Feds were able to release any real information about the investigation. And who needs to watch TV newscasters desperate for updates repeat assumptions and incorrect news for hours at a time. It's not Scandal, I don't need that kind of drama. But over the weeks that followed, I dutifully caught the updates of the investigation.

Then the news of Ariel Castro came out. It was the same thing. The reports of the investigation got uglier and uglier.

And in both instances, loads of family members were found by news organizations as coming out as being disgusted by their relatives (brothers, daughters, uncles, etc.). They disowned them publicly. And it got me to thinking, could I ever really separate myself from my child or my sister or my best friend, even, if it turned out they weren't who I thought they were? Could I walk away from them? Publicly abandon them? Even in the face of them committed the worst kind of tortures.

I think it would break me in ways I might not be able to process. But somehow, in my own brain, I think my first instinct would be not to pick up the phone to talk to a reporter, or get in a car and drive around with the windows down acting alienated by reporters asking me questions about how I felt about my loved one being an alleged murderer. I'm pretty sure, I'd go on communications lockdown and deal only with the authorities and an attorney -- and my loved one.

I'm pretty sure, I'd keep that personal horror private -- and get a good therapist.

I get particularly emotional when I attribute that kind of scenario to the emotions of parents of violent criminals. That criminal is still someone's baby. Usually, I'll admit, it turns out that there was abuse in the family or mental illness that was left untreated. But in situations when there wasn't any of that, it's very difficult to get your brain (and heart) around the idea that something went so wrong in his life to cause him to hurt others, particularly children.

When I read the Chicago Tribune online today, there were more awful reports. A mother held her 11 year old down while her father whipped her with an electric cord for finishing all the ice cream in the house without asking. They think of it as appropriate discipline for stealing.

A mother and her boyfriend beat up a 4 year old boy to the point where both of his eyes were swollen shut and he had brain injury, lacerations on his liver and spleen, cuts up and down his legs (from nail clippers), etc.

Often, this is the kind of stuff that happens to children, to have them grow up to be the Ariel Castros of the world. Abuse is a viscous cycle.

I know sitcoms tell us otherwise, but there are families that exist that aren't emotionally close. I'm reading reports about Michelle Knight, Castro's first victim. She went to the hospital, saw her mother once, and then asked not to have any visitors. Before she was taken, she was in a custody fight over her own child, who she hasn't seen in a decade. 15 months after she was reported missing, the FBI took her off of their list, because they couldn't get in touch with Knight's mother to confirm that she was still missing. It was assumed, per ABCNews that the family thought she had run away, and since she was 20, everyone stopped looking, like she never even existed. Neglect.

It's all just so harsh, and so unhappy.

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