Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The latest Willamette Week's cover story: Sacrificing Rebecca

The cover story of the latest edition of the Willamette Week, Sacrificing Rebecca, details the story of a local mother who suffered from Munchausen syndrome who took her own life as well as her young daughter Rebecca's. The full article as well as commentary are available online at I'm having a really hard time digesting what I'm reading in the article. Essentially, my reaction is to say though the mother was suffering from the syndrome, Rebecca (the daughter) was being abused and no school officials, friends or family intervened in this situation. I am having a hard time accepting that it is ok, to not intervene in a situation where you suspect abuse is going on simply because you ultimately believe that the parent or gaurdian really loves the child. The commentary on the website is also very interesting because people have different opinions about what should and should not have been done to intervene. I am very curious to hear what all of you think...

I'm very curious to hear what your reaction is...


Jenny said...

I think I see why no one intervened in this situation. There's still a tendency to view interpersonal violence - whether it come in the form of domestic violence or child abuse - as a "family problem," and one that should be dealt with within the family. The problem is that the family is often the source of the abuse.

I found it interesting that one person didn't blame the mother because the suffered from a mental illness. I agree that the mother was suffering from a very real mental illness, but in this case, a mental illness does not mean that there gets to be a lack of accountability. The mother is still responsible for her actions.

I think it's great that the WW did this story. The more we're aware of these types of abuse, the better job we can do of putting a stop to it when we see it.

Kelsey said...

I read this story in the midst of being violently ill yesterday (ick) so I wasn't sure quite how to react at the time, either. Now that I've read it again, I'm thinking that:

1. This is good journalism. I had a really hard time picking out judgement from the journalist.

2. This is really, really sad.

Just like Jenny says above, I think there were many instances when the welfare of the child should have been held in higher regards than the mental health of her mother. It is hard to define the line between being a support for someone who obviously has some serious mental health issues going on and also knowing when to step in when the mental illness of one person is a negative impact on another individual.

On the crisis line we understand that many abusers experience mental illness, but we never let that be an excuse for their abusive behavior. While, true, it impacts their behavior, it does not give them the right to treat others with abuse. I need to think about this case, and many cases of child abuse and neglect with a parent with mental illness, in the same respect.

Ledena said...

The part that bothered me the most was the paragraph toward the very end of the article where it describes an interaction from the director of the school (mandatory reporter) and the singer Peter Yarrow. The director states that she is concerned about the abuse and was consulting Yarrow as to whether or not she should make a report, which to my knowledge is not following state law regarding suspected abuse by mandated reporters who work with children. The other part that bothers me is Yarrow's response, which is more common than seeing behavior as excusable due to mental illness---the idea that the abuse is ultimately a result of love (and therefore again somehow excusable). I think that love is definitely present in a lot of abusive relationships (either in dating, parental, etc.). It reminds me of that movie "Crazy Love".

Lastly, the only bias I might point out on the journalists part are the descriptive words she chooses to illustrate what the mother looked like, essentially trying to portray her as a villain (portly, gray haired, etc.). It's unfortunate that most of the time coverage of the issue of abuse (be it child abuse, rape, or domestic violence) is presented as episodic, occurring between two people without any social responsibility. In the case of this story, and similar coverage the abuser is presented as somehow villainous, criminal or otherwise "crazy"----increasing the publics' misguided understanding of the dynamics and prevalence of abuse, and therefore their perceived inability to intervene when (not if) they can.