By Sean Cruz
Susan Nielson's column in The Oregonian on the tragedy at Sellwood Bridge prompted me to post the following comments:
Some parents express their sickness in dramatic ways, by committing murder, by throwing their children off bridges, by drowning them like unwanted kittens.
Some parents express their sickness through neglect, with horrific results.
These cases command a great deal of attention, of public discussion, because they speak so directly to who we are as human beings, as parents ourselves.
The issues are clear, direct, and most of all, visible.
Other parents express their sickness in ways that are not so visible, not so easily understood, the legal issues may be cloudy, and with little physical evidence of the damage done to the child(ren).
These parents kidnap their own children and disappear, leaving nothing visible behind, no corpse, nothing for the media or the public to discuss, to care about.
My four children disappeared from Oregon 14 years ago in a kidnapping organized by Kory Wright, a Mormon zealot and an employee of Columbia Ultimate in Vancouver; the crime noted in The Oregonian’s August 1996 editorial “Say Yes for Kids.”
My son Aaron died in 2005, essentially from long-term medical neglect, heartbreak and abandonment, alone in an empty house in Payson, Utah, where his mother had taken him and then left him behind.
The Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 1041 (Aaron’s Law) in 2005, shortly after I buried my son, his arms covered with the scars of self-inflicted knife wounds, cuts he made in the months following the abduction, when he was largely under the control of Kory Wright, a Mormon zealot carrying out an old-fashioned Mormon shunning.
Aaron’s Law is a landmark bill, first-in-the-nation legislation, providing both victims and Oregon courts more tools to resolve and prevent child abduction, recognizing the emotional and psychological harm that child victims suffer when kidnapped by persons they love and trust.
One of Aaron’s Law’s most important clauses authorizes the court to order counseling sessions directed at educating the parents to the harm that their conduct is inflicting on their own children.
Most parents understand the difference between what is harmful and what is not and can be fairly objective about it, but every now and then something like the Sellwood case surfaces and we are reminded that this fundamental essence of our humanity cannot be completely taken for granted.
It is far more common for a parent to kidnap a child than to commit murder, but both actions have permanent consequences.
On the day that this mother expressed her sickness by throwing her two small children off of the Sellwood bridge, I discovered a photograph posted on the internet that illustrates the sickness of a parent that kidnaps her own children:
The photograph is of a toddler, 18-24 months old is my guess. No name is posted.
The photograph tells me that somewhere in this world, I have a grandchild.
My grandchild’s very existence is a secret, the photograph confirming that this child will be raised in a web of lies.
Somewhere, a parent expresses her sickness through her grandchild, through my grandchild, and on to a second generation of victims.