Family problems don’t mean small skirmishes in the household anymore; there have been many incidents where tortures, violence, gaslighting, and other ways are seen to trouble the families. Recently, a couple from California was found guilty of torturing their children – there were 13 of them. The children were held captive for years and it comes across as a surprise now that no one found this out for a really long time.
The Turpin siblings endured their torture for years until one of them somehow got away and reported to the police. The most surprised of all was their neighbours because they were as clueless about this situation as any people living across the globe. “There are anecdotal reports now from neighbours asking, ‘How did we miss this? How did we not see what was going on? Why didn’t we pick up on this?’” said Beth Molnar, a Northeastern University professor.
Molnar is a social and psychiatric epidemiologist, and it explains why Molnar was so interested in this case. Child abuse is a big issue – something which Molnar has been looking into for almost two decades – and there are many ways it can be avoided. Molnar called one of those way ‘intergenerational closure’, which refers to how people know other people of their neighbourhoods, their children, and what the situation at their home is.
“Perhaps if that neighbourhood had more of this intergenerational closure—more of the social network among families—perhaps they might have seen signs earlier than when this young woman escaped,” she said.
Molnar usually works on the relationship between neighbourhood and child abuse and explains why the word of Turpin siblings didn’t spread around. All of them were homeschooled; meaning the kids – and the situation – literally didn’t go out of their front door. Her paper on this phenomenon was actually awarded ‘paper of the year’ five years ago by a journal called ‘Child Abuse and Neglect’.
Just as how neighbours come together to ward off any, for example, loitering or crimes on their streets, these people can come together to end child abuse. “The degree that people have this confidence in their neighbourhood having these strong ties—that confidence is predictive of lower rates of violence,” Molnar said.