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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Would you call the police in a case of neighbors and domestic abuse?

   
Author Topic: Would you call the police in a case of neighbors and domestic abuse?
Lyrhawn
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I'm in a moral quandary.

I've talked about it with a couple friends, and responses are split right down the middle. Half of them say to butt out, it's none of my business, and the other half say I'm obligated to call the police, and they are shocked I have not yet done so.

I'm almost positive something bad is happening in the apartment above mine. I constantly hear arguments, mostly one-sided screaming, and last week there was a sickening crashing sound followed by muffled sobs through the ceiling. The couple above me appears to be a young Muslim couple. I've seen the woman a few times, young, attractive, usually in jeans and a colorful hijab with a backpack on her back. I've never seen the other person, which either means he lives somewhere else, or he lives there but we just always miss each other. That wouldn't surprise me, since I've lived here four months and rarely see any of my neighbors.

So, suspected domestic abuse. Do you call, or do you butt out?

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BlackBlade
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Call the police to report a disturbance the next time it happens, describe everything you've heard. The police should be trained to look for signs of abuse, and they can take it from there.

This will also help at least the couple to realize there are consequences to their screaming, and hopefully that will shock them into learning to converse more civilly.

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Shan
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Yes. Make the call.
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imogen
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I would call, next time there is a disturbance.

We've called for our (problem) neighbors across the road once. They were screaming at each other and the boyfriend was being obviously physically threatening and verbally abusive.

By the time the police came, the situation had calmed down somewhat, but I still think it was the right thing to do.

(Not long after the boyfriend went to jail on unrelated matters. Not a nice guy.)

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rivka
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Screaming alone wouldn't make me call. The crash following by sobbing in combination with the screaming is far more worrisome, and I would say definitely call if there is another incident (even just screaming).
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
So, suspected domestic abuse. Do you call, or do you butt out?

For what you've described? Call.

The people who are saying to butt out and that it's not your business: what's their overall rationale?

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Armoth
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Adding my voice to the chorus of "call"
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lem
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quote:
Call the police to report a disturbance the next time it happens, describe everything you've heard. The police should be trained to look for signs of abuse, and they can take it from there.

This will also help at least the couple to realize there are consequences to their screaming, and hopefully that will shock them into learning to converse more civilly.

What BlackBlade said.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
So, suspected domestic abuse. Do you call, or do you butt out?

For what you've described? Call.

The people who are saying to butt out and that it's not your business: what's their overall rationale?

They don't seem to have one beyond "butt out, it's not your business." I think the point you might be able to pull from that is that if the woman isn't going to call, I shouldn't assume it's what she wants and do it for her? I don't know, I mean I see a kernel of logic to that, but at the same time, when your neighbor's house is on fire, you don't assume he wants it to burn down, you call the Fire Department and ask questions later.
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Armoth
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No no no no no no. That's crazy. I'm taking a course on domestic violence and child abuse in law school. They're not calling because they're being abused, theyre either scared, helpless, or in denial. Call call call. There is SO much risk to not calling, and very little cost to calling.
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lem
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My mom volunteers for The Dove Center and is given the opportunity to go to seminars and training on domestic violence.

We both live in the same city and it is a peaceful, albeit boring with no culture, place to live. She went to one seminar on human trafficking and brought me the booklet to read. It was very sobering.

From the presentation by an officer: A little bit ago a person in our city looked out her window and saw a young boy, 6ish, wandering around aimlessly in a fenced-in backyard. It was during school hours and something about the boy, time, and situation prompted her to call for a welfare check.

Turns out the house was a drop-house (I forget the terminology) for trafficking. Specifically it was used to traffick children from Mexico to California for the organ black market. Children's organs have a high value. The boy would have been killed and harvested. Who knows how many others are lost we never learn about.

They were able to rescue him and arrest a few people in California, but the larger ring, as near as I've heard, was never taken down. Something about the left hand never knowing what the right hand is doing.

This incident is second hand knowledge to me passed by my mom, but I did read the literature on trafficking and I don't think my mom or the presenting officer had any reason to lie.

It doesn't sound like this is in any way related to trafficking, but I tell it to illustrate the positive impact one concerned call can make. Like BlackBlade said, the police are trained to asses the situation. Sobbing and thumping certainly constitute a check up in my opinion.

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Goody Scrivener
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Call. If you can manage to do so while the fight is in progress so the dispatcher can hear it over the telephone, even better. But please please please call.
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scholarette
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If you call and there is something going on, you saved someone. If you call and there is nothing going on, what harm did you do?
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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
-Edmund Burke
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Dan_Frank
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As if you needed more input, Lyr... call. I've been known to butt in even more actively than that (like, knocking on someone's door immediately after hearing an alarming noise and asking what's up and if everyone is all right... one time I even did it when I thought a neighbor might be abusing their dog).

But at the bare minimum, you should call and report it the next time you hear yelling, nevermind crashes.

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Carrie
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At the very least, it's a noise disturbance and merits a call for that. If you can help prevent further domestic abuse (if that is, in fact, occurring), then that's a bonus.
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Sean Monahan
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When I first moved into my last residence, I was once woken in the middle of the night to a man screaming and yelling and a woman and a baby crying in the unit below me. He was out of control, and he was obviously hurting her, she was terrified. It went on for several minutes. Initially, I was just angry that they had woken me. I am ashamed to say that I didn't do anything about it, but resolved afterwards that if it happened again, I would call the police. They moved out shortly afterwards.

I regret now that I did nothing. Especially since there was a baby there.

Afterwards, my family thought that maybe doing nothing was ok, since no other nearby units were occupied, and he would have known it was me, and they feared possible retribution from him. I was not scared of that though. I would have preferred that he know that he cannot behave like that in a communal living area and expect to get away with it.

If I'm ever in that situation again, I will not hesitate to make a phone call. If you choose not to call, know that you will need to live with that choice on your conscience.

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Kwea
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The worst sometimes happen.... think of it this way; what if you don't call and the next time the police and medical examiner van come to investigate and remove the body? How would you feel knowing that you could have called but didn't?
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Stone_Wolf_
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15 calls, 0 don't calls. And the calls have it.
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Traceria
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Make it 16 calls.

A couple years ago I was on my way to pick up my carpool buddy, and upon getting on the exit ramp, I saw a car stopped ahead. It was blocking the whole ramp. So, instead of driving by, I had to sit there as the driver got out, walked to the passenger side and literally pulled the girl sitting inside out by her hair and off onto the ground of the shoulder. This was followed by another shove and the throwing of her bag after her. He got back in, drove off, and she proceeded to pick up her stuff and walk dejectedly down the side of the road. I pulled off and called the police figuring she'd be easy to spot walking in the grass.

You don't want to be the reason something wasn't done.

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Geraine
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Please call if you hear something like that again. Often women (or men!) in these situations get the mentality that it will be worse if anyone finds out, or that the situation is their fault.

They start to think "Well, I did something wrong to make him mad, this is my fault."

Regardless of culture, religion, or other factors, nobody deserves to be a victim of domestic abuse. If you don't call, you would be partially responsible if something happened to the victim.

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Samprimary
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Sometimes apartment complexes create a Bystander Effect situation, where a person hearing obvious abuse goes 'well someone else obviously hears it, if it's bad enough to warrant calling, someone else will have done it by now anyway!'

NOPE don't let it get you. Apropos of nothing, abusers often constantly hunt for more secluded housing, it's a regular pattern, they complain about having to live in a place like an apartment complex! I wonder why!

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scholarette
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I have a harder moral quandary. Someone disclosed to me in private abuse she suffered as a child by her brother-physical, mental, sexual. Very stereotypical abuse story and to me it screams repeat offender. Everyone who knows went with the let's pretend it never happened (years of abuse, not one time, also 2 known victims). The abuser now has children and nieces, most of whose parents do not know their brother in law has this past. I don't really know the abuser or his wife and I live in a different state. But the original story has me very concerned for those little girls in his life but I have no clue what I can do. Also, abuse I am aware of was 15 years, so past point where legally can do anything. I also have no evidence he is abusing anyone now, just a past pattern of abuse that was untreated and covered up and makes me worried. Abuser has good guy public persona so nieces parents could very easily trust him.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
So, suspected domestic abuse. Do you call, or do you butt out?

My sympathies, I had a similar experience.

http://www.hatrack.com/cgi-bin/ubbmain/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=054233;p=1&r=nfx#000000

In the end, the police did get multiple calls, I talked with a police officer after they had left to a side street, the landlord asked me to write a letter to some housing board, and the couple was eventually evicted (although I left around the same time anyway).

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rivka
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scholarette, you could try calling CPS (or equivalent) in the area where he lives.

(I'm assuming you don't know the parents of his current potential victims well enough to contact them quietly to warn them.)

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maui babe
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quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
... Abuser has good guy public persona so nieces parents could very easily trust him.

This is very typical of abusers, in my experience. They seldom look like chester the molester...
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AchillesHeel
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quote:
Originally posted by maui babe:
quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
... Abuser has good guy public persona so nieces parents could very easily trust him.

This is very typical of abusers, in my experience. They seldom look like chester the molester...
I've had couples in my store where the guy is letting out his most predictable wife-beater preamble loudly and over absolutely nothing at all only to have him come up to the counter and look at me (big, mean looking and not impressed by his tantrum) and act as polite as a guest at a dinner party.

Abusers are target prone, if you don't meet their criteria then you may as well be guinea pig in a human costume for all they care, so long as you aren't in their way.

But honestly Scholarette, what you just described is the bare bones of what happened to my cousins. His family, including his own sisters who he had beaten and raped as children never said a single word about everything he had ever done, then sixteen years later my cousin breaks down and he runs out of town with his tail between his legs and his two sisters and his mother all respond "oh yeah, he did that with his other two families too." Please do what you can.

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Geraine
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quote:
Originally posted by maui babe:
quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
... Abuser has good guy public persona so nieces parents could very easily trust him.

This is very typical of abusers, in my experience. They seldom look like chester the molester...
Do you by chance live in Vegas?

A couple years ago there was a child molestor named Chester that was caught here in Vegas and people gave him that same nickname.

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BlueWizard
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quote:
Originally posted by Carrie:
At the very least, it's a noise disturbance and merits a call for that. If you can help prevent further domestic abuse (if that is, in fact, occurring), then that's a bonus.

This response most reflects my view on the matter. On one hand life is hard, and sometimes people verbally fight, and yes even throw things in frustration. It happened between my parents, but it was never violent. So, the presence of mere arguing and breaking things doesn't mean domestic violence it taking place.

And are there kids involved? If so that changes things. What is the relationship of the man to the woman, husband, ex-husband, father, brother, pimp, some authority figure all of whom may not be happy with the choices this woman has made in her life.

But then, we would have to know the nature of the choices the woman made. Perhaps he/they are mad simply because she has chosen to live on her own and live an independent life. Or perhaps the woman really has made bad choices by any definition.

Next how often does this happen? If nothing else you have a right to live a somewhat peaceful life. There is no reason why their stress should spill over and make your life miserable.

Can you actually hear what they are saying? Do you know what they were arguing about?

If it happens again, consider recording what you hear through your walls/ceiling so you can let the police listen. That's not eavesdropping or wiretapping because the sound is in your apartment, their sound is invading your space, you are not invading theirs.

Also, keep a log of the frequency and duration of these arguments. Perhaps there is a pattern that could help the police.

If thing seem violent to you, and you call the police, and assuming they get there fast enough, they can get the guy's name and have it on file should anything happen to the woman.

There is definitely a time and place when calling the police is the right thing to do. But it hinges on the frequency and severity of the arguing, and whether it turns violent. And all that is tempered by your reasonable right to a reasonably peaceful life. They might be miserable, but that is no reason why you should be miserable too.

So, there is an element of judgement here. How often? How severe? How is it affecting your life?

So, a random argument in my opinion is not enough to warrant calling the police. But if it is frequent, or if the level of disturbance seems dangerous or escalating, or if the frequent fighting is making your own life miserable, then it might be time to consult someone.

Steve/bluewizard

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
I have a harder moral quandary. Someone disclosed to me in private abuse she suffered as a child by her brother-physical, mental, sexual. Very stereotypical abuse story and to me it screams repeat offender. Everyone who knows went with the let's pretend it never happened (years of abuse, not one time, also 2 known victims). The abuser now has children and nieces, most of whose parents do not know their brother in law has this past. I don't really know the abuser or his wife and I live in a different state. But the original story has me very concerned for those little girls in his life but I have no clue what I can do. Also, abuse I am aware of was 15 years, so past point where legally can do anything. I also have no evidence he is abusing anyone now, just a past pattern of abuse that was untreated and covered up and makes me worried. Abuser has good guy public persona so nieces parents could very easily trust him.

This is indeed a very serious dilemma because as I understand it, you don't have any evidence that this guy is abusing anyone currently. You only have evidence that he abused several people more than a decade ago. It's possible that your friend was lying to you or has false memories (possibly the result of therapy). It wouldn't be the first time such a thing happened. It may be highly improbable, but there is a possibility that he has truly changed and is not a danger to his children, nieces and nephews. If he has changed, revealing his history of abuse would serve only to hurt him and his family. Its not a harmless accusation.

You have to weigh all that against the probabily that he is continuing to harm innocent children in a truly monstrous way.

I have no idea what I'd do. Maybe someone who has sexually abused several people in the past, who has covered it up and never made any attempt at restitution, not even an apology, deserves whatever consequences might come from revealing this secret, even if they haven't abused anyone recently.

Maybe its worth ruining an innocent man's reputation on the chance of saving some child from being molested. I really don't know.

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scholarette
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Rabbit- you summed up my concerns very nicely. Though I am not as concerned about making up based on what I know of this person and she really hasn't been in therapy so not likely it was introduced in therapy. Also, we grew up together and now, I look back and things that seemed odd then make perfect sense.
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Rakeesh
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quote:
If he has changed, revealing his history of abuse would serve only to hurt him and his family.
Perhaps I'm reading you wrong, but supposing for the sake of argument he has changed (and I agree, it's a tremendously tricky situation, without first-hand knowledge).
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by BlueWizard:
quote:
Originally posted by Carrie:
At the very least, it's a noise disturbance and merits a call for that. If you can help prevent further domestic abuse (if that is, in fact, occurring), then that's a bonus.

This response most reflects my view on the matter. On one hand life is hard, and sometimes people verbally fight, and yes even throw things in frustration. It happened between my parents, but it was never violent. So, the presence of mere arguing and breaking things doesn't mean domestic violence it taking place.
On the other hand...
This also happened between my parents. My father was always the one throwing things and screaming, and my mother was always instigating. It was absolutely an abusive relationship, and I grew up with a seriously strained relationship with my parents. I spent several years completely cut off from them, and frankly, even today I don't terribly like either of them very much (though I have resumed contact).

Soooo... even if there's no physical abuse, there can still be abuse. And outsiders getting involved isn't necessarily going to change any of that, but it won't hurt either and it's absolutely worth the attempt.

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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
quote:
If he has changed, revealing his history of abuse would serve only to hurt him and his family.
Perhaps I'm reading you wrong, but supposing for the sake of argument he has changed (and I agree, it's a tremendously tricky situation, without first-hand knowledge).
Yeah, supposing he has changed... his family should still know. If he's really "changed," then great, he can probably convince them of that (heck, looking at the way this sort of thing usually plays out there's a good chance he'll be able to convince them even if he hasn't changed).

I understand that telling people about what he did will ruin his reputation and probably damage his home life. That's okay. The only point in which I would recommend a greater level of caution is if there is a non-zero chance that your friend is wrong and it didn't happen. You don't seem to think that's the case. If it happened? Tell people. Even if he's "better" now and telling people means nobody ever leaves him alone with their little kids again... that's okay! I'd even say it's a good thing.

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The Rabbit
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I think the issue hangs a great deal on how you feel about forgiveness and whether you think its just for someone to be perpetually condemned for sins of the past even when they have completely reformed.

I believe people can change. People do change, especially when they are young. Most people do things in their teens and early twenties that they regret as adults. Granted most of those things aren't remotely comparable to sexual assault but I believe the same general principle applies. People deserve a chance to change and when they do, they deserve to be treated like changed people.

There is a widespread belief that child molesters never change. If that is true, then there is no problem with the stigma following them forever. But if there are exceptions, those people deserve the chance to be free of the stigma. In our society, that means keeping the past secret.

But the difficulty comes because child molesters commonly do not change. They continue hurting children. If they haven't changed, keeping the secret facilitates them hurting more people. And there is no real way to know, with certainty, whether a person has changed.

For me this creates a real dilemma. Do I ruin a possibly good persons life by revealing terrible things they did in their youth or do I hide information that might prevent more children from being abused? No matter what I choose to do, it could result in people being hurt who don't deserve to be hurt. Either choice could be wrong.

Some people may believe that when someone has done something as horrible as child molestation, they don't deserve the chance to change and be forgiven. For those people, there is no dilemma. For me, there is a dilemma.

If I had any evidence at all that this guy was still abusing children, it would be different. If for example I knew his kids had behavior problems common to abused children or something, it would be different.

I'm not saying that scholarette shouldn't reveal the secret. I'm saying its a genuinely difficult choice. I don't know what I'd do if I were her position.

[ December 02, 2011, 06:12 PM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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Dan_Frank
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That's really interesting Rabbit!

For what it's worth, I definitely believe that people can change themselves in virtually any way, including child molesters. I also recognize that this particular change is, as you said, uncommon and also very hard to identify.

For me it's not as much that I don't think a former child molester deserves the chance to change and be forgiven, it's that I don't think that hiding the truth is the way to do that.

Yes, child molestation holds a massive stigma in our society (I think you and I are both basically okay with this) and most people believe child molesters can't change. That's their call. I would rather those people know someone is a former child molester and make an informed decision about whether or not they believe in change/forgiveness, rather than hide the fact and not give those people the freedom to react the way they choose.

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rivka
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I do believe change is possible, probably even for child molesters. However, one key feature of such a process would involve sincere apologies to all those he wronged, and some attempt at repair/restitution. I think it's pretty clear that has not happened here.
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Samprimary
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I think child molesters can change, but understanding that with proper vigilance involves a psychological understanding that there's no way to get rid of someone's pedophilia. As far as we know for pedophiles, it is not a curable situation, it can only be continuously managed.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
I do believe change is possible, probably even for child molesters. However, one key feature of such a process would involve sincere apologies to all those he wronged, and some attempt at repair/restitution. I think it's pretty clear that has not happened here.

This is a good point rivka and one I agree with.

The correct choice might be clearer to me if I were dealing with first hand knowledge rather than 3rd hand knowledge. There are many things I don't know about what has happened and those gaps make the dilemma more difficult. The cases is perhaps further complicated, because this isn't scholarette's secret. It's her friends secret. It's what would be called "hear say" in court and has the potential to hurt her friend.

I think if I were in her position, I would try to persuade the friend to come forward.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
I think child molesters can change, but understanding that with proper vigilance involves a psychological understanding that there's no way to get rid of someone's pedophilia. As far as we know for pedophiles, it is not a curable situation, it can only be continuously managed.

Agreed. But for an outsider, knowing whether that is something that is happening is going to be more difficult.

The victim knows if he has ever tried to apologize or not. She clearly doesn't know what he is or is not doing now.

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rivka
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Rabbit, while I grant your point about hearsay, the rules in a court of law are of necessity stricter than elsewhere. It's clear that scholarette completely trusts her friend's information.

If the friend is willing to come forward, that's definitely better. But it seems if she were, scholarette would have already suggested that.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
I think child molesters can change, but understanding that with proper vigilance involves a psychological understanding that there's no way to get rid of someone's pedophilia. As far as we know for pedophiles, it is not a curable situation, it can only be continuously managed.

We don't know that this guy is a pedophile. Scholarette didn't say how old her friend was when she was being abused by her brother or what the age difference was. If she was already in puberty, he was under 17 or the age difference between them was less than 5 years, he would not be considered a pedophile. Those details are quite important psychologically.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
Rabbit, while I grant your point about hearsay, the rules in a court of law are of necessity stricter than elsewhere. It's clear that scholarette completely trusts her friend's information.

Agreed. I was simply saying that the proper choice of action would be clearer to me if I had first hand knowledge of the situation. The standards are clearly different from those in court, but the underlying principles are not. It's harder to know the proper course of action when you don't have first hand knowledge of a situation, even when you completely trust someone.

quote:
If the friend is willing to come forward, that's definitely better. But it seems if she were, scholarette would have already suggested that.
How much difference should it make if the friend specifically asked scholarette not to tell or do anything?

People are often persuaded to change their mind about coming forward, particularly when situations arise that make them concerned for others safety. A friend of mine who was a victim of incest in her early teens decided to come forward when her younger sister hit puberty and became a potential victim in my friends eyes.

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Rakeesh
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Rivka posted what I meant to-apparently I deleted a couple of paragraphs. In this hypothetical, he hasn't been 'perpetually condemned' or even condemned at all outside of internal guilt/shame, or any religious elements. He has, in effect, gotten clean away with one of the most awful, damaging crimes we've got. I don't think he's got any right to forgiveness for *that* without seeking it out.
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kmbboots
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One of the many ways that the Catholic Church has made such a mess of the sexual abuse problem is by thinking only in terms of sin and forgiveness. When dealing with the abuse of children we must also think in terms of crime. We can forgive sinners as much as we are able, but we must also recognize and deal with the consequences of the crimes that pedophile commit and are very likely to keep committing.
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Dan_Frank
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Yep yep yep.

Agree with everything Rivka, Rakeesh, and Boots have said.

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scholarette
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I have been encouraging my friend to come forward but I am not sure if she is strong enough to do that yet. I think even telling me was a huge thing for her. Sexual abuse began at 7 when he hit puberty (like 13). There was physical abuse after she hit puberty, but no sexual abuse. Which is why I think he is a pedophiliac and part of me thinks it would even be a good thing for him for people to limit temptation. Like if I was trying to avoid being tempted, I would prefer not having to explain why I wasn't comfortable having my niece stay the night or whatever.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
We don't know that this guy is a pedophile.

Nor am I saying one way or another. Just mentioning one of those things about pedophilia that needs to be considered in the subject of managing pedophilic crimes and tendencies.
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Dan_Frank
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I think we can now safely say one way, and not the other.

Scholarette, I just want to offer you some virtual hugs for what you and your friend are having to grapple with. It's a really terrible situation, and you seem like an amazing friend and an amazing person both in how you are supporting her and how you are considering to go forward in a way that simultaneously protects her and potentially protects other people from suffering abuse. You're awesome, and you have my deepest respect. [Group Hug]

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