Yesterday and today I did hits for CTV Newsnet on the "Dungeon Dad," Joseph Fritzl. Both times, I was asked the traditional questions: "What was going on in the mind of this man? What is wrong with him?" I answered those but I couldn't resist making commentary on what I think is a lot more important. The bigger issue is "What is wrong with us?"
Josef Fritzl committed crime after crime because we, society, have let him. After imprisoning his daughter, Elisabeth, in a bunker for twenty-four years, raping her repeatedly, fathering her children, and killing one of them, the Austrian father-from-hell Fritzl got a slap on the wrist. The only time before this that he saw the inside of a courtroom and got penalized for his behavior (if one can call his sentence much of a penalty) was when he viciously raped a stranger. He spent all of a year in jail (even though he had convictions of indecent exposure and attempted rape on his record).
Think this is a stretch? Fritzl is now being looked at inthe sexual homicides of four teenage girls in his country and in other possible crimes outside Austria, including Thailand where he went for sex tourism. And a number of women have come forward to identify Fritzl as the man who raped them.
Fritzl's wife, Roseanne, clearly agreed with society. She went ahead and let her husband return home in spite of the fact that he brutally raped a woman while he was married to her. When her daughter went missing, she didn't alert the authorities to the possibility her husband might have done something to her.
Year after year, Roseanne's husband acted in a manner that could not have failed to raise red flags. Did she not question why there were "no access" areas of the property and why her three grandchildren suddenly showed up from out of the blue with only her husband's word that Elisabeth dumped them on the doorstep? Fritzl's wife undoubtedly looked the other way and, in spite of that, society did not charge her as an accomplice.Even the lodgers in the house and the neighbors saw suspicious behaviors on the part of Joseph Fritzl. They actually knew, at a point before she disappeared for two decades, that Elizabeth was being sexually abused; they just didn't think it was their duty to report it to the police. Society again gave Fritzl the green light for his hideous and evil actions.
Finally, part of society caught up with Joseph Fritzl and took him to court. The verdict? An unbelievable fifteen-year sentence for 3,000 rapes, kidnapping, imprisonment, and murder of an infant. Society must think all of this isn't much more of an offense than passing bad checks.
Now, in a continuation of this abomination, Fritzl doesn't have to go to prison where other criminals go, but instead he gets to pick the senior citizen home of his choice—a psychiatric facility (pictured right) that has the most desirable amenities—where he can live out his declining years in comfort and safety.
But, wait, society isn't finished with Fritzl yet! They still have the right to free the man before his "sentence" is up! If this sweet old man makes enough nice art projects and finds "recognition of his behaviors through his personal and group therapy," society might decide to let the poor fellow live out his final years in the community.
Looking at this case, I am not sure Joseph Fritzl deserves to be found guilty if society so supported each and every one of his sick behaviors. How can society blame him when society did next to nothing to prevent, stop, or condemn his actions until Fritzl reached age seventy-three and had decades of enabling by his fellow citizens?
Joseph Fritzl has "confessed" and "expressed remorse" at what he has done. When will society do the same?