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The Debate Over Child Abuse in Oregon's Ukrainian CommunityTim King Salem-News.com
People who move here should be educated about U.S. law and culture.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Stories we have published about a Ukrainian immigrant couple convicted of abusing their children in Salem, are bringing more story comments than we are accustomed to, and our stories receive comments constantly. Unlike other media outlets, Salem-News.com comments are all approved or disapproved by living people.
40-year old Alexander Kozlov and 39-year old Lyudmila Kozlov, were sentenced to seven years behind bars for the abuse they inflicted upon their six children. The couple became sort of a courtroom spectacle, waiving their right to a free public defender because "God" was their attorney, and ultimately receiving a sentence much longer than anyone expected.
The heart of the matter is that many people who are associated with the couple rally behind what they see as a God given right to beat their offspring illegally.
Many of these individuals say the couple did absolutely nothing wrong, others admit that they went over the line but contend that keeping the children and their parents together is paramount.
The children actually fled their parents' custody to report the six years of abuse in the U.S. to police in Salem.
As far as the contrast in the comments, I am very straightforward as the writer of most of the articles and the News Editor of Salem-News.com, in stating that I do not support child abuse. This seems like a no-brainer to most, but believe me, I have never argued with so many over such a seemingly obvious point. In fact, it is the only story in my 20 years of news reporting that involves child abuse advocates en masse.
The important part of this, is that the comments are changing, slowly but surely, and it seems like this community is learning that what the Kozlovs did was not right, and that they could have better represented themselves in court, and thus received a lesser sentence.
U.S. courts are sensitive to the idea of remorse. If a judge believes that a defendant understands they are wrong, it will help the outcome for the person on trial. If the defendant is disrespectful and unrepentant, then the sentence will be longer, almost every time.
The big picture tragedy is that people are allowed to move here legally, and they receive absolutely no instruction apparently, in American law. People should be educated about law and culture and what is expected of them - in this case it appears that they were not, and it has cost many people a great deal.
The worst of the comments have revolved around the children themselves, and based on the comments it appears clear that the church community that this family was part of, is soundly and unequivocally condemning of the children for seeking refuge from the the years of abuse.
Maybe, hopefully, there are people in the church who understand what is really going on, I am not sure. In fact I have been told that this church is the reason the family is here in the first place, and it is my understanding that the minister helped basically convict them in court by bringing the same strange logic into play, up to and including claiming that the evidence in the case, actual photos of the various injuries on the children, had been "photoshopped".
I have to state again that we have been very surprised by the hundreds of comments that strictly support the parents, holding the children responsible for their own abuse. I am indebted to the people who understand how wrong child abuse is, and for the comments they make.
Here is a supportive comment, this one came from a Salem-News.com visitor named Andrai: "Great article, great job on this, you are a great American, and this needs to be told cause I came to America in 1991 and remember my parents beating us all, trying to cover it up by making us skip school so the gym teacher or someone wouldn't see it, and I still can't believe it, and would never say I deserved it. Great job on reporting, I can't thank you enough cause there are thousands of kids that are being abused every day helpless helpless, and dont know where to turn. This might offend the Old country folks but we must not be scared to stick our nose in to this subject, and let Homeland Security look in to this, and leave peaceful Americans alone."
Sara wrote, "This is a sad story. But, it is good lesson for all Russian/Ukrainian community. Be honest the parents are guilty. We all know the Bible not teach that way to discipline the kids. I feel sorry for the kids and ashamed for people who misinterpret the Bible."
Angelina wrote, "I was also raised in a family of 10 kids.. dad was really set on that kind of punishment and mom was soft, kind, and tried to stand up to him. Now after having two kids of my own... I do believe in spanking, but i think if you are still spanking after 5 years of age or before, I think you should already know by then that you are doing something wrong!"
Oregon Reader left this comment: "A seven year sentence seems somewhat excessive in this case, however without remorse, I guess the judge found no other option to show, clearly, how disappointed he was in the actions. This really is a sad case."
Unknown takes the other side of the issue with: "These kids are teenagers whom obviously have no respect for their parents. If the girl's parents didn't let her get a haircut than she should have listened. I myself am a Christian and yeah in the Bible is says that you should hit your kid w/ a rod, and to whom that aren't Christians, then you don't understand that hitting your kid w/ a rod or spanking them is called discipline. Those kids really are messed up because now they just ruined their parents lives, their brothers and sister's lives and their own lives. Their parents are in jail and the kids don't feel guilty whatsoever. I personally think that the parents should be found Not Guilty bc all they did was discipline their kids. I DON'T feel sorry for those kids what SO ever (expect for the little baby)."
This is more along the lines of the earlier comments, prior to the conviction, and they are starting to fade away. Other stories we have run include a contribution from a Ukrainian/American who was also severely abused as a child.
The comments cited above were corrected for spelling and grammar and punctuation only. For those following this story, please use this story for comments about the Koslovs in the future if and when possible.
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