I never cease to be amazed by human cruelty and the excuses people make to justify it. For example:
For two long years, his little body endured horrific abuse at the hands of the very people who were supposed to care for him.
Not only that, Zack (not his real name), now 10, had never gone to school and until recently didn’t even have a birth certificate.
His father’s whereabouts are unknown, and the boy was raised by his 45-year-old maternal grandaunt since he was four, after his mother was jailed for drug offences.
But instead of treating Zack like her own son, the woman whom he recognised as his “mother” brutally tortured him.
She even roped in her three daughters, aged between 14 and 24, to join her in abusing the defenceless boy.
They truly tortured this boy. His grandaunt poured hot oil over his body, burned his hand with a hot iron, hit him in the mouth with a hammer, and cut his fingers with scissors. The abuse left the boy permanently disfigured.
And her reason for all this: he took food without permission.
I doubt that was the actual reason. No one treats another person like that over food. There may have been some resentment of the boy because of his mother’s drug problem or some other issue.
Of course, at sentencing the grandaunt cried. Not for the boy, but for herself and her daughters. The grandaunt got five years, the older daughters got 22 months and 20 months. The 14-year-old plead guilty, but has not been sentenced yet.
With all this horrible abuse, it seems unlikely that no one would have known about it. According to the boy, when they poured the oil on him he screamed and they taped his mouth shut. Yet the neighbors claim they never heard anything:
A 64-year-old retiree, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, said he would have called the police if he had heard a child screaming in pain.
Dr Brian Yeo, a consultant psychiatrist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said that because Zack had never been to school, he might not know how to interact with other people.
“This could be why the abuse carried on for so long,” said Dr Yeo.
“Even if there were screams from the boy, neighbours wouldn’t see any reason to step in or suspect something is amiss if the other family members don’t seem distressed.”
A social worker, who declined to be named, however, feels that Singaporeans in general do not want to interfere in other people’s problems.
She said: “Singaporeans need to show more empathy to others around us.
“This must be taught by parents when one is still young and through initiatives like the Singapore Kindness Movement.”
A kindness movement would not do a thing because this is not about a lack of kindness. Most people would help the boy had he come to their home. No, this is about indifference, about out of sight, out of mind. People simply do not want to get involved. They may think it will only happen once or that it is not as bad as it sounds or that someone else will step in and stop it. But if everyone thinks that then no one will do anything and abuse like this will continue.
The article states that the boy lacks basic people skills because he was never around anyone but his tortures. I think about my former foster brother and the trouble he has fitting in and socializing. He grew in a similar situation, and it is still hard for him to read social cues right. Something as simple as a family dinner is stressful for him because he does not know how to react. And that is worsened by his justifiable distrust of people, particularly women since his abusers were female.
That is a horrible thing to do to a person, and yet it happens far too often.