Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Lost Girls

The Lost Girls

Adult nonfiction
I picked up John Glatt's The Lost Girls on a quick sweep of the
Orono Public Library's adult new books section. When I saw the
subject later at home I almost returned it unread. Ripped from the
headlines volumes are one of the genres I try to avoid. I have no
idea why I decided to read a few chapters. I'm glad I did. As a
feminist I found disturbing implications for our society's treatment
of women well beneath the surface.
In May 2013 three young women and a child escaped from a chamber
of horrors in a Cleveland residential neighborhood, capturing
worldwide media attention. The young women had been imprisoned,
repeatedly raped, forced to live in conditions of squalor and
degradation, and abused in every way possible for about a decade. The
child was the offspring of one of the women and their tormenter.
For such a horrific story, the coverage is thoughtful and
nuanced. Glatt is an excellent researcher and interviewer. He goes
well into the background of the many lead characters and their complex
relationships, not trying to cover up areas of ambiguity and
uncertainty. Any this-could-never-happen-to-me smugness is shredded.
It certainly is a call for all of us to think on ways we can make all
communities safer for women and children.
Predictably criticism of the particular people running the city
and the search has been forthcoming. When something bad goes down we
seem to want a person or people to blame. I am sure that the
individuals, for the most part, were doing the best they could in the
situation in which they found themselves. In the situation in which
they found themselves is the operative phase. This country is still a
much less than safe place in which to be a girl or women. It will
continue to be if we focus only on symptoms and don't take out roots.
(Any of you who weed gardens will get this).
To cite just one example, Ariel Castro, the abductor, had four
children by a common law wife. He abused her severely, causing her to
go to the hospital, on a number of occassions. He also pressured her
not to tell, making getting medical care contingent on this and
threatening to hurt her and their children. A couple of times she
started to press charges only to back off out of fear. She had reason
for fear. Abused partners and their children are most in danger when
they try to escape. We need to set it up so that every woman who
finds herself in an abusive situation knows that she will be protected
if she leaves or presses charges and helped to achieve financial
independence. (Fear of not being able to support herself and her
children can keep women in bad situations since abusers are very good
at eroding opportunity and confidence.) Anyway if his ex common law
wife had been able to safely press charges and Castro had been
rehabilitated or put away maybe there wouldn't have been a need for
this book.
On a personal note, Joey cat has been a frequent visitor to Veazie Vet
this summer for minor ailments. Today it was a urinary tract
infection. I wish vets could teach human doctors a thing or two.
They take the time to put an animal at ease. They look not only at
the sympoms, but at the animal's overall record. And they are willing
to discuss companion humans' concerns and do all they can to make care
easy and nontraumatic for both parties involved.
A great big shout out goes out to the staff of Veazie Vet. I am
looking forward to being part of Team Veazie Vet in October at Paws on
Parade, a sponsored walk to benefit the animals at the Humane Society.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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