May 13, 2006

 

Are We Leaving The Door Wide Open For Child Abuse?

Ordinarily, I don't use this space for a lot of venting. Usually, I confine my written ranting to my personal journal (you know, the old-fashioned kind with paper pages) and, occasionally, message board rant forums. But, right now I feel I must update my blog by way of rant. I'm outraged about our society's lack of concern on the issue of child abuse.

I've been rather down lately. Too much illness, therapy management and death. I'm not clinically depressed or spiraling down into the "hopeless/helpless" pit where I've resided in the past. Yet, I am quite frustrated. Frustrated at my inability to affect positive change. I guess the goal of my rant is to channel that frustration and anger outward, instead of turning it inward and feeling depressed like I've done so many times in the past.

I'm pissed off at and absolutely flabbergasted by the lack of concern about the abuse, harm and molestation of our precious, innocent children. I feel like I'm the only one who cares about this important issue sometimes. Rationally, I know I'm not the only one. But, I keep coming up against this seeming uncaring and ambivalence. I just want to scream!

I'll give you some examples from parents in my immediate community: where I live, where my kid goes to school, where my family attends church.

But, first some background. I admit, when I moved to Colorado seven years ago, I was naive. For some reason--the clean air, the beautiful mountains maybe--I had this assumption that my adopted state would be more progressive. I gotta tell you, it is a state that is nowhere near what I would describe as progressive. Much of it is just too backward, right wing and conservative for my personal taste.

Fortunately, I reside in a small enclave where people are quite liberal, proactive and environmentally "green" (relatively speaking anyway). My son attends a school where many students get there on foot and parents are highly active and involved. I attend a Unitarian Universalist church that strongly promotes peace, justice, respect and nonviolence.

Yet, I am baffled by the apparent lack of concern--by these same people--about protecting the safety of innocent children. My first sign came when I realized that I was the only parent of a third grader at my son's school who had signed up for the KidPower program made available there. Not one other third grader attended this valuable workshop to learn how to stay safe.

Another incident occurred recently: A neighbor actually got in an argument with my son's 10-year-old friend and proceeded to slap him across the face. It was rather interesting--the boy who was slapped lives the same distance as I do from the irate neighbor (who has since moved, thank God). The boy and my son, however, chose to run to my house after this happened. As you might imagine (if you've read my work and realize how fervent I am on this topic) I was immediately consumed with righteous anger.

I asked both boys to slow down and calmly tell me their interpretations of what had just transpired. Indeed, it seemed that, while the boy may have become somewhat verbally belligerent, the neighbor got carried away and struck the boy across the face with her hand. I gotta tell ya, if it had been my kid (who can be, at times, equally argumentative and sometimes disrespectful) I would have immediately marched up to that woman's door and told her in no uncertain terms that she is never to touch my child again or I would be calling the police.

But, this was not my child. I felt that any confrontation would be more potent and appropriate coming from the boy's own mother. I asked my son's friend if he wanted to tell his mom about what had happened and he said that he did, but wanted to think it over first. I told him that we would respect that decision, but that I hoped he would eventually feel comfortable sharing because I thought it was important for neighbors to know that we mothers were not going to tolerate having them treat our children in such a violent, disrespectful and unacceptable way.


So, the three of us went outside. The offending neighbor had retreated into her house, but the boy's mother was now outside. The boys ran over and the story came spilling out in all its drama. I was deflated and disappointed by the mom's response: "Oh well, they're moving out of here soon anyway. Besides, if I talked to her about it, it wouldn't do any good." Then, she advised her son that she expected no retaliation out of him.

Damn. I didn't want any retaliation either. I don't agree with meeting violence with violence. But, I was very disappointed that this mother chose not to advocate for her child in any way. My son and I had a long, private talk about the matter and I hope he realizes that I would have stuck up for him in a more assertive way.

The most recent event just occurred this past weekend. My family was attending a little "goodbye" get-together for a neighbor who has decided to move to a lower altitude. In a little conversation circle, we discussed what's been rumored as a similar incident involving the music teacher at my son's school. The teacher has left the school because of allegations that she forcefully touched one of her students (one rumor is that she slapped the kid).

The woman sitting next to me (also a mother with kids at the school) piped up, "I heard that all she did was touch the kid on the shoulders and shove him back down in his seat." She proceeded to lament about how this poor woman (my words) was probably never going to be able to come back to the school "because of the way this school is." I wanted to blurt out, "What way the school is? You mean, intolerant of child abuse?" Though I was seething inside, I stayed quiet because I didn't want to start a heated debate when we were there to say a nice goodbye to a friend. The night was about her, not about me and my soap box.

But then, every single person in our circle proceeded to give their opinion about how society has changed. Maybe I'm reading into the comments, but they all seemed to be of the opinion that our schools today are making a mistake "sparing the rod" when disciplining children. The comments were about how it wasn't that long ago that much stronger force was used to keep kids in line and a teacher wouldn't have to leave the school for something like that. I finally interjected, "But, that was in the days of corporal punishment and I'm glad we no longer have that."

Then, an elderly lady sweetly said, "Yes, but it's a shame that you can't even give a kid a pat on the back or a kind touch on the shoulder anymore." I've been thinking about that one. She's right. It is a shame. But, why is it a shame? Because we can't man-handle kids any more? In my opinion, the shame is that children today are starved for the attention of a healthy touch and a listening ear. I'm a former CASA (court-appointed advocate for abused children), stay-at-home mom and I do volunteer work with a lot of children. I see and hear just how starved these kids are.

I don't think we have a healthy balance in this society. There's definitely got to be a better way.


However, things being as they are, I'm willing to be restricted by the rule that adult leaders of kids programs cannot be alone with children. I prefer that volunteers abide by the strict rules of conduct that CASA requires. I'd even resign myself to a restriction where the healthy touching of children is confined to their own homes and family rather than see innocent children raped, beaten, or otherwise abused. I'd rather live with these new rules than have to live with the fact that one out of every three girls in our country is sexually abused by the time she is 18.

I choose to live with these rules. I choose to talk about the uncomfortable subject of child abuse. I choose to advocate for children. My old therapist thought I took on too many of the world's sorrows and troubles. But, if we don't take on these tough issues, what will happen to the children? What will happen to us as a society, as a species? What will happen to our planet?

Please help me take a stand for children. Please talk about this HUGE, important issue. Please advocate for children--at least your own. Express your righteous anger and outrage when a child is hurt, abused or the victim of any violence. Let the kids know that they can tell and they will be supported and protected. Otherwise, you're leaving the door wide open for the abuse of our children.

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Comments:
I advocate EVERYDAY for children. I wish everyone could do the same.
 
i agree with everything you have said. I awm having a different, but related issue with a nephew. I posted about it in the post titled "Rant, ideas needed" on my blog...would love to hear any ideas you might have for me.

Feel free to link me...also, all of my "other links" (non blog links) are DID sites, except for Diabetes Mine.
 
please feel free to link us also,
We have been in a similar situation recently and one i think ill blog about, but i can only shake my head and be as pro active as we can whilst carrying our own pain. But i will say one thing anyone touches my children or my friends children it will be a moment they will never forget.
Our children dont deserve as no child does the suffering we went through all in the name of keeping your head down and keeping the peace.
We will never be like the two neighbours that heard and saw the abuse the crys of pain and the please dont do that ill be good and ignored it wainting until we were in adulthood to apologiuse for not having done something about it. WE WILL NEVER BE LIKE THEM and out kids know we are safe and they can come to us with anything, thats caring and communicating.
thanks for sharing about this subject and stay tuned for the blog about our recent stuff to do with this.

Thalia
 
I am in the process of adopting an adolescent from the state, and have learned more about child abuse in the last 6 weeks than I ever thought I would.

I also learned that there are some schools that still use corporal punishment, and there is one in our area that even calls the parents and lets them watch. It is just sick...
 
Thanks for "listening" to my rant and for your support. I was starting to have a few doubts like I'm being "too sensitive" about this stuff. But, you know what? This is an issue that one can't be too sensitive about. And we, as a society, have lacked sensitivity about it for way too long.
 
oops. i think i put my first comment on the wrong entry. it was supposed to go on the entry where you said you were ranting about the people in your home town and their attitude towards not protecting their children.

another thing is though, people tend to think, "it can't happen here." but it does. when it does it blows them away because after all, they're in a safe, beautiful place with hardworking good Christian people. but you know what? where there are people there are crimes that baffle and disgust good hearted citizens. no community is exempt from humans. therefor no comunity is exempt from the destructive acts of humans. no mountain view can take that nature of humans away.

---------
i think one way to advocate for children is to advocate for survivors. once people begin to heal old problems they can have an impact on not continuing problems like child abuse. if we help those who have been abused then maybe they wont in turn abuse. but you know what? we have to have laws that support the victims. our laws don't support the victims. children have no real rights. they are "owned" not nurtured like they should be. I think it is important to protect them but i think another issue is to look at the adult survivors of childhood abuse who have turned into abusers. if we look at that piece of the puzzle we might be able to get a handle on the others. if we set up more help for male survivors then maybe not so many would turn into abusers. if we see women as equal abusers we might be able to stop what they are doing. the issue isn't just protecting the children, it's working with those who MIGHT end up being a cause for us to protect our children.
and you are right. I'd rather no give a hug to a child than to be allowed to give a hug and a slap. if they get this affection at home then it shouldn't be a big issue to not be able to do this to children that we don't parent. but people see children as objects and not human beings.
just my thoughts.
Austin of Sundrip Journals
 
No problem, Austin. I just deleted that first comment and put this where I think you wanted it. I agree with your thinking. I read a comment somewhere recently where that stated they thought talking to survivors was like "preaching to the choir." Yet, I believe survivors, survivor healing, survivor education is essential for breaking the cycle of abuse. I KNOW that the therapy and recovery work I've done has helped me avoid abusing my own child. It is, of course, a multi-faceted problem that needs awareness, advocacy and reform on multiple levels. Thanks for doing your part to raise awareness!
 
Good post!

I remember being a child and thinking: I will NEVER let myself forget how this feels! When I grown and around children I will remember what this does to them.

Yeah, we need to educate adults who don't recognize abuse or who want to believe it's not as serious as it is. We also need to let our kids know they can say "no" and we will back them up.

I give workshops and one thing I noticed is that as I help adults feel better about themselves (and hey, these are workshops about WRITING!), I've had people tell me I have changed how they are raising their children.

What we do, what we say, has ripple effects that often we may never know. So every time we speak up matters. Every time we step in and protect a child OR adult it matters.

Good post.

April_optimist
 
Thanks, April. That means a lot to me. It DOES matter when people get abused and it DOES matter when we take steps to stop the madness! I'm so glad you're having a positive impact with your work. That's wonderful.
 
I think when you have been abused you are much more sensitive to other people's feelings and needs. It think this is why I post about mummy wars so much. I can't stand the divide between women who all want to raise happy, healthy children but have different ideals of how to achieve that. I wish people could be more supportive of each other.

The way I feel for my child is fierce. If anyone hurt her I would certainly be assertive. I say something when I hear people call they kids little shits. I even stopped seeing one friend because she was so mean to her child. I told her she was going to ruin his life and she has begun to change her behaviour towards him, thank God.

I am never going to be able to understand how an adult can hurt a child, whether physically or emotionally.

But in contrast, my husband is a teacher. I see how frightened he is working at a girls school. How he can't be alone with a girl in a room. How he is unable to break up a fight between two girls because touching them could compromise him. And why he won't go on school holidays because of how he could be laid to blame for any thing that goes wrong.

While I understand all your points about child man-handling and I am glad it has stopped. It can often lead to unchecked peer-group bullying within schools and teachers lack the ability to assist effectively.

It's a very strange situation that I have no answers to, just I see both sides.
 
Emily: Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I can only imagine the frustration with the current situation teachers must deal with. I've had a taste of it with the volunteering I've done. But, I'll say it again: I'd rather have to work around these restrictions than live in a world where one in three girls is sexually abused before she turns 18! We all need to be outraged to ACTION on this alarming statistic!
 
That is alarming. I want to write a researched post about the number of offences, convictions and reoffending rates. I must get round to it.

My point through most of my posts about my experiences (there's only been a couple so far as I am only starting to write about it) is that I hate the way the media gazumps the issue. They go hell for leather for the one high profile case and demand out of proportion sentencing. What about all the kids who are invisible? The ones being abused everyday by people not on the sexual offences register or the Megan's LAw register? The people who are supposed to love us and yet cause daily pain? Who is going to help them tell? Who is going to demand that they have justice?

The papers aren't interested in us, the run of the mill abused by our family and close friends. They want headlines stories. The random abductions, stranger rapes, man who repeatedly offends and can't be rehabilitated.

Things like Megan's Law and the sexual offences register are pretty useless in protecting people like me - abused by a man of good character and no previous record but did stuff to little girls for 10 years undetected.

It's like giving us a bit of foam when we are all in a sinking boat. Nice idea, but completeley useless to most of us.

Plus the sexual offences register all too often carries offences that are of no use to us anyway (consenting 15 year olds having sex (rape), under 18 years old males having sex (buggery), drunks mooning out of cars (exposure) and a quick fumble between marrieds in a wood (indecent exposure)). It's so beauraucratic it renders it practically useless.

How can we tell children that they need to look carefully at those they love and trust and tell on them if they are abusing them? These children know the consequences. They are terrified. I can't stand thinking about those children.

I look at my little girl and all her innocence. I can't see why any child should lose that. But they do. People only focus on the headline grabbing.

We need to educate the non-abused that it is usually those closest to home that are the offenders, not the random stranger. It's an uphill struggle.

I've no idea how children can ever be fully protected. For example, if you mistreat a dog in the UK, you can't own another. If you mistreat a child you are freely able to get pregnant again.

The world is a crazy place.
 
Emily: You're right. The world is a crazy place. Some days I can keep my perspective and feel optimistic about creating change for the better. Other days, I just grind to a hault and feel immobilized. Gotta keep pushin' on!
 
Marj

You are doing a great job. Not enough people talk about what it really feels like to be abused. THis is where the internet is amazing.

Each one of us is helping each other and that is a good thing.
 
Emily: I'm so glad that I've got some opinions that we're doing some good work here and survivors are being helped. I just gotta know that it's all worthwhile--that's what keeps me going. Thanks for reminding me of that.
 
I totally agree. I think the main problem is the same attitude that keeps abuse victims from speaking out: denial. No one wants to believe that children are being abused, and when abuse does happen we tend to brush it off like "it's no big deal, it was just a slap, it was just a touch, it's really no THAT bad."

Thanks for posting though. I hope that it makes people think when they read it.
 
Brewerburns: Thanks for your validation on this. Yeah, it's interesting isn't it? We tend to minimize stuff we think is "not that bad," but then we go into complete denial when we think the abuse is just too awful to bear. But guess what? The abused child has to bear it every day. We've GOT to advocate for these kids! Thanks for doing your part.
 
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

Stop Child Abuse Now! since October 13, 1975 and 2001 from
Donora, Pennsylvania and Portland, Eugene, Oregon.

The purpose of this web site, which began after Paul McLaughlin got his
first computer in 1994, is to show what one handicapped survivor has done
in the community for the prevention and awareness of child abuse.

Stop Child Abuse NOW! Paul's web page
http://www.efn.org/~scan

PHOTO PAGE OF PAUL'S WORKS AND TIME CAPSULE
http://www.efn.org/~scan/paulpics.html

PHOTO OF PAUL AND HIS WIFE, ELIZABETH
http://www.efn.org/~scan/paul&liz.gif

HEART WARM SHORT CHRISTIAN STORY ABOUT PAUL--MUSIC IN BACKGROUND
http://geocities.com/Heartland/Hills/6100/story5.html

Paul's goal is not to be a victim, not to abuse self, and not to abuse
the community by negative revenge, but to speak out about child abuse and
also to work in the communities to heal himself and to educate people
about the 'before/during/after' effects of abuse.

Tell your story and also work to save our children in your community.
Child abuse or any abuse will continue as long we don't talk about it and
don't work to 'help stop child abuse.'

Paul McLaughlin
has limited knowledge on many topics of child abuse,
laws, and children's services.
During Paul's speeches, radio programs, etc., experts from
children's services agencies are present to answer difficult questions.

FOR THE SUFFERING
He's the one who delivers hope.
Others have benefited from funds he has raised for child abuse programs.

S.C.A.N. is a voice on behalf of Pennsylvania, Washington, and Oregon's
children -- an advocate for children and families
in the legislature, in the media, and in local communities.

"I want to let people who were abused as children know that they have
choices other than to continue to be victims or perpetrators."

Not only does he speak out against child abuse, but he also puts his and
other survivors words into action in the community.
Because of his suffering, he did not abuse himself or the society by doing
gangs, drugs, alcohol, or disrespecting his parents.

This web site celebrates the triumph of one man over a childhood during
which he and his twin sister were tormented and severely abused for
eighteen years.

As a precious little boy he came close to death twice, but Paul McLaughlin
survived, and has been a tireless crusader for the rights of children and
against child abuse since 1975.

He began his life's work in his home town of Donora, Pennsylvania. Today,
he and his wife Liz live in Eugene, Oregon, where they continue to fight
for the right of children everywhere to live free from fear and abuse.

IN THE YEAR OF 2001, PAUL WAS FORCED INTO RE-TIREMENT BECAUSE OF MS---
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. PARTIAL BLIND IN ONE EYE, NUMBNESS FROM THE WAIST DOWN
TO THE FEET, OFF BALANCE AND OTHER HEALTH PROBLEMS WITH MS. HAVING SPENT
OVER 25 YEARS WITH EPILEPSEY.

http://www.efn.org/~scan

Paul M. McLaughlin
Liz SEVEN McLaughlin
Stop Child Abuse NOW!
298 Hunington Ave.
Eugene, Oregon 97405-4055
 
scan: Thank you for the information. I will add "Stop Child Abuse Now" to my resources on my dot com website under "Advocacy & Prevention." Thank you for calling this to my attention.
 
Marj, thanks for posting this in the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse. It is something that we all need to support - educating our communities about child abuse.
 
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