Edmund Burke was right. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
That’s exactly what the neighbors of what the media has dubbed “The House of Horror” did. Absolutely nothing. And evil triumphed. For way too many years.
If you’re just learning about this horrifying story that has dominated the media this last week, let me quickly catch you up. Earlier this week, law enforcement in Riverside County, California found thirteen children ages 2- 29 shackled to their beds, starving and living in filthy and inhumane conditions. These kids were physically, emotionally, psychologically, and most likely sexually, abused and tortured based on what authorities are reporting. By whom? Their parents.
OK, so now that you’re caught up, go ahead and throw up a few times.
According to media reports, apparently, the neighbors were “shocked” to hear about the “alleged atrocities that happened inside the seemingly ordinary home.” Here’s what a few of them said:
Kimberly Milligan, 50, who lives across the street, said she had encountered the Turpins only once, when she and her son saw three of the siblings — who they thought were 11 to 14 years old — hanging Christmas lights in 2015. “We said, ‘Hey, your decorations look really nice.’ And they froze,” she said. “They looked absolutely terrified. They were childlike in the sense that, ‘I’m invisible, you can’t see me.’ That was their only defense mechanism.”
“I thought they were like a cult,” said a man named Mike, who lived across the road from the allegedly abusive Turpin family in the town of Murrieta for several years before they moved in 2014. “They would march back and forth on the second story at night. The light would be on the whole the time, and they would be marching the kids back and forth,” said Mike, who wouldn’t give his last name. Mike works in a hospital and says he’d often see the Turpin siblings being marched through the upstairs rooms between midnight and 3 a.m.
It gets worse. When asked why he didn’t call authorities, Mike said he and his wife didn’t think they had enough to call the authorities.
Are you freaking kidding me, Mike? You see kids being forced to march around their house at 3 am and you don’t think there’s enough to suspect something f—-d up is going on and to call the authorities?
I know. Nobody wants neighbors up in their personal business. I know I don’t. But why are people so willing to turn a blind eye on what is happening right in front of them?
No, it’s not the neighbors’ fault that two evil (and freakishly weird looking) people abused and tortured their own children (thankfully the family dog reportedly came out unscathed we learned on Friday). But to willfully disregard signs that a child – let alone 13 children – may be in danger in their very own home is inexcusable.
What’s confusing is that there would have been no blowback had one of these willfully ignorant neighbors decided to be a good Samaritan and actually reported what they saw to Child Protective Services anonymously. There was no need to be go over waving a shotgun and demand answers. But at least have the courage and humanity to make that phone call so the authorities who are trained in identifying abuse can investigate.
What’s even more baffling to me is that these neighbors have no issue taking their five minutes of fame on television, unabashedly expressing their shock and awe at the inconceivable reality that they did nothing about. Which honestly only makes them look like a bunch of cowards who I hope feel extremely guilty for the rest of their lives. Or at least until they figure out why they acted cowardly.
This isn’t to say that every neighbor is guilty of remaining silent despite their suspicions. I want to believe that, had some of the neighbors known unequivocally that abuse was occurring, they would have intervened. There’s some validity to this. In recent years, there has been a rash of incidents where concerned citizens who have witnessed parents harshly disciplining their kids in public have called the authorities to intervene. And overall public sentiment in support of spanking as an acceptable means of discipline – while still a majority – is down substantially since 1986. Given these trends, you would think neighbors would be more aware and have the courage to do the right thing given they noticed some odd stuff going on. Unfortunately, the Turpin’s neighbors took the cowardly way out.
Why would they do this? Are the neighbors also evil people?
Gavin de Becker writes in his book Protecting the Gift (same author of The Gift of Fear – if you haven’t read these books, you must!), “Safety starts with knowing that your intuition about people is a brilliant guardian. Listening to intuition really means listening to yourself. Like everyone, you’ve had scores of experiences when you listened and were later grateful, and scores of experiences when you chose not to listen and were later regretful.”
This month is officially National Slavery and Human Trafficking month. If you want to make a difference in a victim’s life by paying attention to some of the most common signs of abuse, don’t look the other way. Listen to your gut.
And then start by doing something about it.
Your neighbor’s life may depend on it.