Eyes Wide Open

Monday, January 29th, 2018

When an abuse situation becomes breaking news, it is often accompanied by interviews with neighbors, family, friends, or others in the community who “wish they would have said something,” or saw the signs but, “weren’t sure,” and didn’t want to violate anyone’s privacy. Sometimes, people knew something was “off,” but failed to say anything.

Such is the case with the horrific story coming out of Perris, Calif., that made major headlines in mid-January when the parents of 13 children were charged with torture and abuse.

David and Louise Turpin each face 12 counts of torture, 7 counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse or neglect, and 12 counts of false imprisonment. The father also faces one count of committing a lewd act by force or fear, which authorities believe may indicate sexual abuse.

The two were arrested after one of the children, a 17-year-old, grabbed an inactive cell phone, jumped out of a window, and ran, calling 911 to tell police that she and her 12 siblings were being held hostage. The siblings ranged in age from 2 to 29. Over the course of many years, neglect had turned to severe abuse that ranged from beatings and strangulation to starvation and prolonged abuse—including mental torture, filthy conditions, and victims chained to furniture.

How did this many children fall through the cracks? It’s difficult to pinpoint just one reason.

Interviews with neighbors revealed that no one knew there were that many children living there. They describe the family as “standoffish” and “rarely seen.” Extended family members had either lost contact or been refused contact with the children. The red flags were there, but no one acted upon them.

In your organization, are your eyes and ears open? Don’t be the one who wishes they would have said something. If you suspect something is going on, report it!