Parents aren’t ever to blame

I’m one of those people who watches one reality murder show or another every night. I fall asleep to them – Dateline, 20/20, Evil Lives Here… Anything but woman-centric murder shows with titles like Murdering Moms or Twisted Sisters, or something. Probably because the “who” of the “whodunit” is right there in the title. Also probably because they’re produced in such a way that they’re stupid.

It probably sounds weird that I go to sleep to murder shows, but it’s not murder that soothes me. It’s the predictability of the formula, which is a lot like the one Law & Order uses (and which I used to fall asleep to): 1. Meet the victim. 2. Get drawn through all of the possible murder suspects. 3. (I’m asleep, by this point.)

One of the murder shows I watched a few weeks ago was about a woman (naturally) who was killed by a man (of course) she was seeing. In an unusual twist in the murder show format, we were given a little bit of background into the killer.

As a child, he was abused every day by his parents. Or at least almost every day. Enough for violence (and anger and all of the feelings I can only imagine are associated with having your parents regularly beat the shit out of you) to become and remain an indelible part of his psychological and emotional makeup.

The show provided that information right before cutting to the victim’s family saying (as any victim’s family reasonably would) the murderer deserved life in prison, or whatever it was his punishment ended up being.

And then the show ended. Justice for the family, because the bad man got his sentence.

Not a word about the role the murderer’s parents played in helping to create a murderer.

Not a word about the damage inflicted on a small, innocent, vulnerable child by someone twice his size who was supposed to protect him.

Not a moment of reflection on the betrayal and confusion he, as a child, must have experienced when the people he was supposed to trust instead kicked him or punched him or stomped his small body or locked him in a dark closet for hours or starved him or screamed at him that he was a worthless piece of shit.

Not a word to recognize how often parents do this to trusting, clueless, children on a daily basis around the world.

Or, well, how often they do those things and far worse things.

“Well he (the murderer) was responsible for his own actions and he should have seen a therapist or something and he was the killer and he should still go to prison because he killed somebody”

Yes. He–also someone’s child, remember!–should still receive something in return for the damage he did. Prison, mental health help, something. Yes.

But why no mention of the role abuse probably played in who he became? Why not some show of disgust toward child abuse, or a screen of statistics right before the credits showing the long-term psychological effects of child abuse, or a question, even, asked of the victim’s family that went like this:

“Granted, you’re angry and hurt and you should be, but are you able to have some compassion for the little boy whose parents beat him on a daily basis, the little boy who grew up to be the emotionally stunted and violent man who killed your daughter? Do you think his parents share some of the blame?”

I’d love to see every single murder show dig as deeply into the childhoods of the murderers they profile as they do the lives of the victims. Everything may not happen for a reason, but there is a reason things happen – and I wonder how often the reason is, “People who shouldn’t have become parents did it, anyway.”

Oh, well, though. They’re their children. I suppose they can do whatever they want with them. None of our business once they’re out of the womb, right?

Kristen Tsetsi is the author of the novel The Age of the Child. “Something interesting and endlessly thought-provoking that The Age of the Child captures is the multiple sides of pregnancy – wanting to be pregnant, not wanting to be pregnant, and what right the government has in controlling pregnancy. … This isn’t the first piece of dystopian fiction to consider these questions. [Others] have opened the dystopian genre to questions about reproduction; however, The Age of the Child is one of the first I’ve read to really consider the issue of reproductive rights and attitudes so deeply.” – Goodreads Review

Feature image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

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