As police release more and more information on the decade-long captivity of the three women in Cleveland, the story has, as was feared, got uglier and uglier. I cannot bear to read the stories beyond the headlines, except to wonder yet again what it says about us that such a thing could happen for so long under our very noses. I am a believer of minding one’s own business but have we gone too far in that direction, and as a consequence now tend to ignore signs of trouble for fear of being seen as nosy and interfering in the lives of our neighbors?
After what must have been a terrible ordeal, the three women and their families will also now have to face being treated like circus freaks from the bad old days, and endure the withering and highly intrusive scrutiny of the media and the public, not to mention gawkers and voyeurs all anxious to get salacious details of their time in captivity. And then of course there will be the clueless busybodies and neighbors who may mean well and want to help but whose actions surely add to their stress.
I wish there was some kind of code of behavior that people would follow in such situations that says that we should leave the victims and their families well alone to go about their lives undisturbed, to enable them to try and reclaim as much normalcy as is possible under the circumstances, while providing them with any support that they request. If they want to talk about their captivity publicly at some time in the future, fine. But we are not owed any information from them and we should just leave them alone.
But I fear that that will not happen. Such stories have a macabre fascination that sells newspapers and drives TV ratings. It requires great will power to turn one’s eyes away. So we will be subjected to endless speculation about what happened to them in which fact and fiction will blend together seamlessly. The only thing that will save these women and their close families from this second ordeal is if another ghastly tragedy with sexual overtones comes along that makes the mob suddenly shift attention and race after the new target, like dogs seeing a squirrel.