12 November 2011

Responsibility of Authority- More Ala Kachuu and Penn State

So here's my biggest problem with Penn State and bride kidnapping and many abuse cases and other crimes: people who are considered authorities often do not do anything, or they do far too little, or, worst of all, the tell the victim or witness to do the wrong thing.  Victims and often people who witness crimes too, for a variety of reasons, are not able to protect themselves or those they see getting hurt.  While it blows my mind that people can walk by someone who was hit by a car without doing anything, or see a child getting abused and not stop it, or ignore a woman getting beaten by her husband next door, I am not surprised that people would be confused and scared about what to do in those situations. There is plenty of research about this and even though, particularly in the case of witnesses to violent crimes, that may not be an excuse for not protecting someone else, it is our reality and difficult to change.

In some ways the grad assistant at Penn State who saw a child getting abused did react in an expected way for his situation- he told several authority figures (his dad and Paterno at least) what he saw.  Of course he should have gone to the police first, but when he didn't, those authorities ought to have gone themselves.  It is part of the responsibility of being in authority. McQueary's father and Joe Paterno did not respond appropriately.  (This is not to say that I think McQueary shouldn't get fired, but I think there are some extenuating circumstances there that do not apply at all to Paterno.)

The same thing happens with bride kidnapping, although to a different extent.  Nearly always there are a variety of authority figures involved- her parents at least, his parents, maybe some neighbors, and often aksakals.  These are all people the woman has been told for years that she must respect and obey.  Nearly always all of those people (every.single.one) tell her that she must marry the man if she stays the night.  There is no other option.  Those authority figures do not protect her and, instead, tell her she must get married.

There are many reasons why those authorities do what they do- a major one is that, more than protecting victims, they want to protect social or insititutional order, to put it kindly. Jerks.


We're slowly, slowly getting to a point in the US where laws regarding authorities' reporting of child abuse will make a difference and I hope Joe Paterno's firing will drive that home a little better to all people in authority in the US.  The legal system in Kyrgyzstan doesn't work that way though and I'm not at all convinced that a legal solution is best regarding ala kachuu, although it ought to be part of a solution.  But that's also another post.


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