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Opinion: Decades of ‘stranger danger’ fear has created neighborhoods where abuse goes unnoticed

This suburban Perris, Calif., house, prosecutors say, was the site of the abuse and starvation of several children.
This suburban Perris, Calif., house, prosecutors say, was the site of the abuse and starvation of several children.
(Andrew Gombert / EPA )

To the editor: An integral element in coverage of this Grimm-like tale is the neighbors’ complete cluelessness about David and Louise Turpin’s alleged years-long abuse of their 13 children. (“The alleged abuse of 13 children in Perris is an indictment of our neighborhoods, say readers,” Readers React, Jan. 20)

Their inaction is quite understandable. For more than three decades, the media and “experts” have inculcated in parents the fear of “stranger danger” when the real danger invariably comes from parents and relatives. This has resulted in a society of isolated, wary families with shuttled kids and scant neighbor interaction.

In my serene middle-class neighborhood, there are kids who rarely play outside and would never ask a neighbor for help. Even the teenager who escaped her home did not seek a neighbor’s help.

Is it really so incomprehensible why no one paid much attention to odd behavior, much less intervened?

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Mary MacGregor, La Quinta

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