(Sydney, Australia) I haven’t any real idea of what Shawn Hornbeck was forced to endure during his four-and-a-half years as a captive of an obviously deranged child abuser, but I know exactly what he’s going through now at the hands of his parents.
During those years you have to assume that he was probably sexually abused by Michael Devlin, who reportedly had child porn material on his computer. Tragically, having escaped captivity and abuse he is now being abused by his parents.
Shawn’s parents have been dragging the boy from TV show to TV show, from interview to interview to interview. Four-and-a-half years this kid was held captive — probably more mentally than physically — and now that he’s finally safe and home with his parents, he’s once again a captive, this time to the public’s insatiable thirst for details of his ordeal, and to his parents’ determination to satisfy that thirst.
Without showing any reluctance to exposing Shawn to the red-hot glare of publicity, Shawn’s parents couldn’t wait to put him on view on the Oprah Winfrey show less than a week after his release.
I don’t care how warm and fuzzy Oprah Winfrey is, but when his parents allow themselves to be asked by the hostess if they think he was abused, while he is sitting there helpless to avoid having such intimate details about him aired before millions of viewers, they agree that he was.
In my opinion, what they are doing is tantamount to child abuse, taking him from show to show and making him captive to the media. They seem to be wallowing in their 15 minutes of fame gained not by their own actions, but exploiting their son’s ordeal.
The other day the New York Post put their finger on the matter when they wrote “Shame on boy’s folks and Oprah.”
Think about it. If you were a parent whose son had been stolen from you, taken away for four-and-a-half years, and after you learned that the abductor who stole your life and ripped your heart out was into child porn and probably had his way with your son, would you have your boy go on Oprah Winfrey?
It wouldn’t surprise me if they next drag Shawn to Jerry Springer’s show.
I find it shocking that Shawn’s parents said that while they haven’t asked him about what happened to him because it would be too painful, they nonetheless have no problem with putting him on public display.
This really is a form of child abuse. If what I believe happened to Shawn did indeed happen to him, I hope and pray that he will survive all this, but if he doesn’t you could put as much blame on his parents as on his abductor.
This is what I was getting at in my book “On the Outside Looking In” when it was just going to come out in 1987 or the first part of 1988 and I wrote that I hoped the national media would not get a set of the nude pictures my abuser took of me before I could tell my side of the story.
I was terrified that if they got to it before I had a chance to tell you my whole story suicide might well have been an option.
I know from personal experience the mental torture any victim of sexual abuse is forced to endure. To have that experience paraded before the public is another form of abuse, made more painful when it is the parents who inflict it on their child.
Say a prayer for Shawn Hornbeck.
©2007 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc. Cari Dawson Bartley.