In an effort to combat crime in urban areas of Hyannis, the slogan “If you see something, say something” was promoted by cops and town officials.
After 25 years living in Barnstable, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you see something, it’s best not to say anything. You’re safer if you look away, and in some cases, run away.
About 15 minutes ago, our infamously violent neighbors just had a Sunday morning blowout that spilled into their front yard. My son came running in the house and told me the Howells were “screaming F-bombs” in their front yard. As I walked to the door I heard Ron Howell screaming “I’m gonna break your f-ing neck!”, and saw kids running away from him into the yard in their pajamas.
I told my son to stay inside until the storm passed. Finally Ron Howell ran out to his car and peeled out of his driveway. He probably feared someone would call the cops, but no one did. Mountain Ash Road residents know better. Calling the cops could easily result in a trip to court for harassment. Been there, done that.
If you didn’t see it, you may want to read the story of a Barnstable resident who faced similar experiences with local cops, judges and DSS. Her alleged experience makes ours look like a bad hair day:
The article doesn’t say why the mother went to a Sandwich police detective when she lives in Barnstable, but it appears that she no longer had the ear of the Barnstable police. Barnstable cops gossip worse than any sewing circle of frilly young debutants, and if they don’t believe you – they make sure no one will.
When I first told Patrolman Donovan of the BPD of the neglect and abuse going on with the kids next door, he told me that such things “don’t happen in neighborhoods like this”. He pointed to the “nice lawns” and “new cars”. What a dumbass. I assumed he was accompanied by then Lt. Paul MacDonald because he was too dangerously ignorant to be out riding by himself.
Because stories were being manufactured by the hour to combat our complaints, I purchased video cameras to show my dogs weren’t running loose, my husband wasn’t showing up with 20 guys for a fight, and I wasn’t “planting syringes in the driveway”. These were all allegations made by the neighbors before the cameras went up. MacDonald told me I would only “make matters worse” with the cameras. Now MacDonald is chief of police, and has started putting cameras around town to combat street crime.
FYI – Barnstable Police have also started using impressive high tech license plate cameras that run plates at warp speed, and notify the cops in the cruiser of outstanding warrants, expired registration, etc… belonging to owner of the plate/car. It’s kinda big brotherish, but it helped local po-po catch some real bad guys recently.
I felt that simply because the cops didn’t believe what was going on, surely the DSS or a court magistrate would get it. They didn’t. The police and neighbors convinced officials on every level that we’d made up the story of abuse and neglect of the young Howell children in order to exact revenge on their parents for putting up a shed.
Sadly, it is not uncommon for individuals scorned to make false allegations of sexual abuse as leverage in a dispute. Probate court judges are naturally skeptical of such claims, especially in highly contested custody situations.
Cape Cod Times reporter Patrick Cassidy’s story of a local Brazilian mother’s account of the sexual abuse her seven year old son has allegedly endured at the hands of his father rang some familiar bells for my husband & I this morning.
It appears that the mother’s problem, at some point, became one of credibility with Judge Robert Scandurra, of Barnstable Family and Probate Court. Scandurra has a great deal of experience with custody issues, and knowing how rough those waters can get, his skepticism is warranted.
Probate judges have broad powers, and they’re supposed to use them to act “in the best interest of the child”. Of course anyone who’s ever been in a custody battle in Massachusetts will tell you that it’s all a crap shoot, and depends on the judge.
I know of an occasion where Scandurra picked up the telephone to check on the veracity of a father’s financial statement. He also threatened the mother in that case with jail if she refused to comply with visitation orders, but when she did just that, the court simply wrote new orders. That happened about a dozen times until the kids finally turned 18 in that case.
Following his interview with the Times reporter, Scandurra wrote an e-mail saying that once he makes a decision in a case, he “rarely mulls it over again”. He decided, for reasons not clearly stated, that the mother was not telling the truth about the sexual molestation of her son. It happens, but in this case the judge had more than enough red flags to err on the side of caution in the best interests of the child. He didn’t. He stuck with his original feeling that the mother wasn’t credible, despite mounting evidence of sexual abuse.
Another perplexing issue in this case is the weightlessness Scandurra gave to the Guardian ad Litem’s report. He faulted the G-A-L for not interviewing the supervisor of the father’s visits with his son.
I’ve seen some flakey G-A-L reports, but this one looked into several complaints of the very serious allegations of BABY RAPING, and determined they were likely credible. Scandurra faulted the report for not including an interview with the supervisor, but given the seriousness of the allegations, could he not have picked up the phone, as he’s done before, and called the supervisor himself?
It’s hard for me to imagine anyone, especially a parent, inflicting that type of harm on a child. As a mother, it’s impossible for me to understand how/why another mother would keep returning her own young son to the hands of a father whom she knows is raping him. Scandurra could threaten me with hanging, and I’d die trying to find a way to keep my kid from that kind of harm.
Given that the mother is from a different culture, she may have felt she had no choice but to return the child over and over to his baby raping daddy, but I still don’t understand how she could.
Such stories are disturbing and should be told, but should they be told while the case is ongoing, in the newspaper? The photo of the mother and her son walking away from the camera is enough for me to pick them out of a crowd on Main Street, Hyannis, which appears to be where the shot was taken.
Child abuse and neglect are pervasive social problems. Hell, it’s going on right next door. I could always move, but chances are I’d land right next door to another mess.
If the mother in this case is telling the truth, then perhaps the Cape Cod Times did something truly heroic. Pressure is now on Judge Scandurra to “mull over” the mother’s story again.
The boy in this case is now 7 years old. The District Attorney did not prosecute earlier because the boy was only five, and the feeling was that he was too young to testify. My son was 8 years old when he testified against his bullies next door, and the judge found him to have “the highest credibility”. By the time this matter would get to trial, perhaps the poor child in this case will have turned 8, which is certainly old enough to speak to a judge/jury.
From my own experience I have to say that if I had to do it all over again, I’d have put up the fences, less conspicuous cameras, and simply kept my son away from the never ending nightmare that lives next door. I can’t help but wonder, if the story in the paper is true, how that mother will feel in five or ten years. Will she wish she simply flew back to Brazil with her son and disappeared into the countryside?
If you see something, is it really worth it to say something?
I’m afraid in Barnstable it’s just too risky. Talk to me in five or ten years.