In college, I read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Plato describes a life lived by individuals chained to a wall in a cave. All they see of the outside world consists of shadows on the wall. They give names and identities to the shadows and that is their reality. The chained-up characters have no desire to break free and see life outside of the cave because their universe is limited to their observations. Simply put, they don’t know any different. As I read story after story detailing the horrendous torture inflicted by David and Louise Turpin on their 13 children, I’m shocked beyond words.
For years, the Turpin children were shackled to their beds, unable to use the toilet, shower more than once a year, and eat the food their parents set in front of them causing severe malnutrition and developmental delays. They were reportedly prohibited to play with any toys in the house, as they remained in their original packaging. They didn’t know what a police officer or medication was. Thankfully, they were taught to write and kept lengthy journals, which will hopefully help to confine their torturers to shackles for the rest of their lives.
As I continuously shake my head and wring my wrists over this tragedy, I can’t figure out what’s the worst part. Is it that these children will most likely never be able to function as normal, healthy contributing members of society because of the abuse they’ve suffered? Is it that these siblings will probably be divided amongst many foster families, thus losing the only support network they’ve ever known? Is it that this was going on and on and on for years on end without any neighbor ever speaking up, ringing the doorbell to investigate, or perhaps placing a call to child services to find out why the children in the family of 15 next door never come out to play? So much for neighborhood watch. The criminals were under everyone’s noses and no one said boo.
How can this happen in modern society? Isn’t humankind supposed to improve over time? In how many other homes around the globe is this happening? What greater wake-up call do we need to open our eyes and look around at our microworld in which we live? If something seems off, investigate. Do something. How would you be able to forgive yourself if you find out in a number of years your neighbors are the next Turpins?
One could argue that the Turpin parents are just nuts and there will always be nuts in the world. But, this modern day Plato’s cave didn’t happen in some faraway, isolated land where no one can hear the screams. This torture went on for years in suburban California and “society” wasn’t able to pick up on it and stop it. That is perhaps the most terrifying piece of the puzzle.
I welcome your thoughts on this incredible moral failure.
Lawyer and legal writer, Julie worked primarily in real estate law before focusing her career on the social media and marketing aspects of the legal industry.