Lest anyone think that I am insensitive to the plight of abused children because of my response to Martha Nibley Beck’s accusations against her father Hugh Nibley that he sexually abused her as a child while wearing Egyptian ceremonial dress, I wish to express that nothing is further from the truth. I have a particularly soft spot in my heart for innocent children who have been mistreated or abused, whether physically, sexually, or emotionally. Stories of child abuse in the media make me physically ill and my heart breaks for the children. If anything causes enmity towards God to enter my heart, it is reports of the suffering of the little ones.
Last week, we had stories in the media of the Dollars, a couple who tortured their children, locking them in a closet, pulling out their toenails and banging their feet with hammers, and starving them over extended periods of time such that by the time of their rescue, they looked like Auschwitz survivors.
This week, we have a Tuscon couple who locked their daughter in her room for over a year and sexually abused her:
Investigators determined that the girl — described as 5 feet 6, weighing only 97 pounds and “significantly malnourished” — was kept in a bedroom with its single window covered by a blanket, its door fastened by an outside lock.
This 14 year old girl also had likely not been to school since the fourth grade.
Punishment should be swift and severe for the perpetrators of such acts. If anything in this entire world makes me question God and his love for us earthlings, it is such occurences of child abuse. As bad as this latest story is, it pales in comparison to the pure evil that is being perpetrated against children in places like Thailand’s sex industry and as a result of pornography and the sexual licentiousness that abounds in our society.
Although I was always bothered very deeply by stories of cruelty to children (I used to have nightmares about kidnapping and such as a little kid), the first time that an awareness of this cruelty shook my entire being was when I first heard of the plight of Kaspar Hauser, a child severely abused and neglected for sixteen years and found in Nuremberg in 1828. The Count Anselm von Feuerbach, a judge on the Bavarian Court of Appeals, took interest in the case and resolved to come to the bottom of it. It remains, however, to this day, a mystery just who Kaspar Hauser was. The preface to the 1833 English translation of Feuerbach’s account of Hauser’s story briefly summarizes Hauser’s experience:
Hauser was at that time [that he was found in Nuremberg] about sixteen or seventeen years old, had never learned to speak, and soon showed that he had been shut out during his whole life from all communication with the world. A narrow, dark dungeon, in which he was always obliged to remain in a sitting posture, so that even his bones had assumed a peculiar shape, had been all the space allowed to the unhappy being in this wide world; water and coarse bread, all the food he had ever tasted; a shirt, all his clothing; and now and then stripes, inflicted by the unseen hand of his fiendish keeper, when he happened to make a noise — all he knew of any being besides himself. He was but just allowed to vegetate — and what a wretched vegetation in his forlorn condition.
Only a few years later Hauser was stabbed to death in a pub. A life of misery, horrible in its details, and, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. These accounts turn up regularly; other stories are even worse which combine such isolation and neglect with routine rape and sexual exploitation in the child-sex industry. I have no insight or answers as to how this can be allowed to happen. It bothers me greatly and tempts me to question God’s love for us. In the end, though, I must confess, like Nephi upon being questioned concerning the “condescension of God,” that I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.