Stanislava Ondová on child abuse case in the Czech Republic: Where does society's responsibility begin and end?
Last week the country was shaken by the horrifying case of the death of a three-year-old boy from Louny. By all accounts he was abused by his father and his mother ignored it.
According to online social networks, emergency medical services were called by a roommate of the couple's who returned home after a two-day absence and found the boy lying motionless and swollen in bed. Unfortunately, it was too late - the child was beyond help.
After these events, threats of abuse and other messages have been sent to the mother's Facebook profile. I have read those commentaries and seen that some people are describing having encountered her with the child at the playground or the shopping center.
These people have now posted that the boy had visible bruises, scabs, and even hair missing from some parts of his head. They claim to have seen him with his parents on Valentine's Day with bald patches, a swollen face, and visible bruises.
Some claim to have asked the parents what had happened to the child, and allegedly the parents responded that the boy had fallen down the stairs - and that he pulls out his own hair. His grandmother told the newspapers, several days after her grandson's death, that he was actually beaten by his father.
The family's neighbors have begun to describe hearing the alleged perpetrator beating the child, or seeing him with bruises or burn marks. Now that the little boy is dead, more witnesses have come forward who knew about his possible abuse than I can recall for any other case.
Not one individual or institution ever reported their suspicions to the child welfare authorities in Louny, though! My question is: Where were you when the boy was alive?
How is it possible that nobody is afraid to step into the spotlight with accusations and testimony now? Now - when it's too late.
Why did all of you who saw the child after a beating, with hair torn from his head, satisfy yourselves with the explanation that he had caused his own injuries? Where were his relatives, those who are suddenly now alleging that his mother was afraid of her own partner?
Was she so afraid that she decided to let her own child be abused? Who do you all think you are - suddenly you all seem to know what the correct course of action is to take in such cases?
What has happened here, what that poor three-year-old child need never have gone through, is not just the fault of his mother and her partner. All the people who knew about this abuse and did nothing are also to blame.
This is the fault of all you "heroes" who are now sending death threats through Facebook to the child's mother - who is, by the way, being investigated. I personally believe the mother bears as much guilt as her partner for the child's death and should also be in custody with him - she was released on her own recognizance - but that's just my personal opinion.
The child need not have died if at least one person - even anonymously - had reported suspicions of abuse to the authorities, if one person had done the work of calling the police or reporting it to them in person. If one responsible citizen had taken the risk of potentially being subjected to public verbal abuse from the boy's mother, or her partner, then that little boy might still be alive today.
Where where his aunts, his grandmothers, his uncles? Where were the acquaintances, the friends and neighbors of this family?
Nobody noticed anything - until after the child died? Where does the responsibility of those around the family lie for what happened inside the family?
This death has made me recall a story from my own childhood. it began when some new "white" neighbors moved into our building.
Back then that was nothing exceptional, 25 years ago it was common for non-Roma and Roma to live in the same apartment buildings. After some time, the neighbors' children and I became friends.
I learned that the youngest sister was the daughter of the man of the house, while the other sisters were children whom her mother had from previous relationships. The oldest daughter was in my same class at school and she was a star there, naturally intelligent, she did beautifully.
However, she was afraid to go home every day, because if she ever got less than the highest grade, she would be beaten. She was also beaten for not doing the dishes, or not feeding the youngest sister - who was the father's biological daughter - correctly.
It took some time for me, as a child, to understand what was going on. It was odd to me that she was afraid to go home when she had gotten a better grade than I had for our schoolwork.
She visited our home, and to her it was odd that my parents did not punish me for my bad grades, that I wasn't being beaten with a wooden spoon or anything else. My parents did not approve of corporal punishment.
One day my mother sat down with me and this girl, about a half a year after they had moved in (and it wasn't until later, many years later, that I realized why, what Mom intended to do back then), and in a natural, unobtrusive way, my mother asked my schoolmate what it was like in her household in that regard. After that, my mother invited her mother over for coffee.
I don't know what my mother said to her exactly, how she formulated the message, but that evening she told me that I shouldn't worry, my friend's father would not be beating her anymore - and if he did, my mother would be calling the police. Sometimes all it takes is to not be indifferent to the suffering of others, to notice what is going on around us.
These days we're all "brave" online. We know how to verbally hurt each other's feelings, but brave actions in the real world are foreign to us.
Some of those who have been discussing this recent death online are claiming they were afraid to say something about their suspicions when the boy was alive. What were they afraid of?
Who were they afraid of? Were they afraid of this creep who was taking his anger out on a tiny child?
That little boy was not killed just by his father's hands and his mother's impotence. He was killed by the indifference of this entire society.
All those people who knew about the abuse and did nothing killed him too. It doesn't matter that you're all showing up on social media now that the coast is clear, you will never return that three-year-old's life to him.
You all should have been strong when he was alive and gone to the police. It doesn't matter if the police have to investigate a thousand accusations that turn out to be unfounded - if the life of just one child is saved, it's worth it.
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