“Why don’t people report abuse?’ is one of the most common questions asked. “If they were really abused wouldn’t they want to tell someone?’ Well yes and no. We know that most people, perhaps the overwhelming majority of those abused do not report what happened to them for three basic reasons. They are afraid to say anything because their abuser has threatened them or their families as part of the grooming they were subjected to. Often, people do not report abuse because they are sure that they will not be believed. And, individuals who have been abused see that when members of their own community have reported abuse they were shunned by the community, even sent packing, having to move away from a beloved home. Overriding all of this is the tendency among many to blame the victims of abuse despite the fact that they were forcibly coerced or were very young or were in some other way unable to protect themselves.
None of this is new information. Anyone working with individuals who have suffered from abuse have seen these dynamics. There is, however, another motivation that keeps people from reporting. It is not simply fear of disbelief, abandonment or being hurt. It is even beyond the antipathy of indifference or the desire not to get involved. It is a sanctimonious belief that not reporting a crime is the best, most protective way to shelter a community. Let me give you a personal example. My experience is not nearly so life altering as abuse – in fact it is, at best, an annoying but simple event rectified rapidly by insurance and the assistance of some friends. Still it suggests a mindset that underlies the environment that allows evil doers to get away with their offenses.
A few short weeks ago I parked my car in a legal spot in the parking lot of a supermarket. I ran in for a few items and was done in less than five minutes. I came out to find that my car had been hit and the front fender and bumper were hanging down. The car that was on the side where the damage was was rapidly leaving the lot. I jumped in my car to see if I could catch the person or at least get the license plate number. I was unable to so I returned to the lot and called the police. While waiting for the police to arrive I notified the store manager and asked if the videos of the lot were working. The manager said they were and were monitored at a sister store a few short blocks away. The manager called the other location to confirm that the video was in fact operating and as the police arrived told them who they can speak with at the monitoring site.
One of the police officers took down all the information while the other officer went to the video station. After a few minutes the second officer called to say that the individual monitoring the lot said that he could find no video for the time of the crash – this was less than ten minutes after telling the manager at the site that there was video. The officer I was with was incensed that by law the individual monitoring the videos would aid in an illegal activity – a hit and run. I was told that the police department would initiate an investigation and likely secure a subpoena for the video but if it were erased the likelihood of anything happening was slim.
For the record, the damage to the car was close to $10,000. Off the record, the police informed me that this was not the first time that the store had obstructed an investigation. The police have been following several people who have a history of shoplifting. In many stores in the community there are no videos. In the same store that I was in there are. When requests for video evidence of certain people stealing from the store where my car was damaged was requested somehow the evidence was missing.
It is one thing if the store managers and owners have decided to overlook shoplifters and view those losses as part of their operating costs. Perhaps in some distorted fashion they believe they are doing a good deed, protecting the community by not tarnishing it with news that there are shoplifters. Perhaps they believe they are doing a good deed in that the shoplifters need assistance with food. Still, an erroneous belief as the community has many sources to aid those with need and more importantly, some of the shoplifters are quite wealthy. For them stealing is a thrill or compulsion much like abusing a child is for those who do that evil. Unfortunately, the managers are not helping but are doing the exact opposite. They are reinforcing the belief that criminals have be they abusers, shoplifters or horrible drivers that cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage that they can continue to get away with their evil. Aiding and abetting is a crime even if it is done passively!