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Conspiracy of Silence - Opinion

Most people could hardly believe their ears when the story of a woman who was locked up by her own parents for 17 years came to light today.

The woman - now 26- was closed up in a 2x2 storeroom on the property of her parent's home in a mountainous area in the Nicosia district. According to information released by MPs, she had been abused by her alcoholic father and her mother kept up a conspiracy of silence about the situation. After the father died, she still did not release the girl, who by then had serious mental problems and has since been admitted to the state psychiatric hospital. Welfare services have known about the case since 2002 but said their hands were tied because they did not have the parent's permission to take the woman away.

The police do not know who to arrest and MPs do not know who to blame, according to news reports today. The attorney general now has the case file.

This story reminds me of many stories I heard growing up of people actually hiding their mentally or physically ill relatives because they were ashamed or afraid of them. The muscular dystrophy association, for example, had a very difficult time getting parents to send their ill children for physical therapy because the parents actually felt terribly ashamed of their kids. I had thought these types of taboos were finally over until this story came out today.

The uncomfortable truth is that everyone in the village must have known about the family's situation, but nobody stood up for that poor girl. The names of the village and family have been kept under wraps to protect their privacy, and that is only common sense. But as we hear about more and more cases of parental abuse - both sexual and physical - coming to the surface, the only humane conclusion is that breaking the conspiracy of silence and embarassment should be made a priority by social services.

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