“Cycle of Abuse” by Mary Mattison

“Children sleeping in Mulberry Street” by 19th Century reformer Jacob Reis (1890) (PD)

The history of child abuse in all its forms would astonish many.  It leaves little hope to be vanquished, considering in many countries it is deemed “culture”.  Although we can not stop child abuse in its entirety, we do have the power to help save one child at a time in America, and hope for humanitarian efforts to continue their fight for children around the world.

The life of Mary Ellen Wilson started an increased awareness for the need to protect children.  She was born in 1864.  When her Mother became  widowed, she sent Mary to boarding school, but could not continue the payments.  By the age of two Mary Ellen was placed in foster care, suffering the abuse for eight years.  Although neighbors heard the cries, and saw the condition she lived in, they did not come to her aid, but thankfully one concerned woman could not forget her.

In 1874 a Methodist missionary, Etta Angell Wheeler, was asked to check on Mary Ellen, since she made frequent visits to the poor tenements.  After seeing the badly bruised and neglected child, she set out to take legal recourse and remove her from the home.

A court case ensued, and the judge placed Mary Ellen with a loving family.  She went on to lead a productive life, and some have deemed her a “dandelion” child, which are children who seem to thrive and do rather well, despite living through horrific experiences.  Sadly not all cases have such a happy ending.

There have been many changes in child welfare since 1874, yet the circumstances that left Mary Ellen in an abusive home for years are still much the same.

With all the recent effort to decide who will fund woman’s reproductive health, four children die every day from abuse.  This is only an estimation, and fatalities are rising.  Each state has a data base, and the numbers are heart wrenching.  See, for example, https://dcs.az.gov/news/child-fatalities-near-fatalities-information-releases .

Child Protective Services stood to receive 3.3 Billion dollars in 2016 to fund their programs.  The bleak reality is, there is not enough money, or man power to stop the abuse and neglect of children.  Valuable time is wasted investigating false claims, while serious cases of abuse and neglect go unreported.  In some cases children are placed in poorly screened foster homes where the abuse continues.

Would it not be more economical to address the social issues?  The lack of moral values, compassion for human life, and self-seeking behaviors that are behind the suffering of innocent children?

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3: 14).

Like Etta Angell  Wheeler, Mary Mattison is a woman with a loving heart.  She blogs at Anchor Thy Soul https://anchorthysoul.wordpress.com and Pennies for Dreams https://penniesfordreams.com.



Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Community, Emotional Abuse, Law, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

20 responses to ““Cycle of Abuse” by Mary Mattison

  1. “Would it not be more economical to address the social issues? The lack of moral values, compassion for human life, and self-seeking behaviors that are behind the suffering of innocent children?” – I absolutely agree with this. So much money is being pumped into child welfare in the form of social services and children’s charities which is good, but it’s not about the money, it’s about valuing our children, loving our children, treating our children as if they are flesh and blood. Basically, do not abuse children and if you witness or see a child being abused – for God’s sake, do something about it! So angry about this!! Sorry Anna for my rant here.

  2. I forgot to include Mary’s name here : So sorry Mary and Anna for the rant, but for some reason, this post had me in tears, and I don’t know if Mary Ellen Wilson’s name so close to my own initials triggered it.

  3. Thank you Anna 🙂
    God Bless

  4. “Would it not be more economical to address the social issues? The lack of moral values, compassion for human life, and self-seeking behaviors that are behind the suffering of innocent children?”

    Speaking strictly from a monetary viewpoint, enough money cannot be printed to wipe out child abuse. This is yet one more area where we have absolved ourselves of any responsibility to take an active part in our communities. After all, there are “programs” out there to tend to those kinds of kids. By effectively making child abuse “their” problem, we can wash our hands of it and sleep well at night.

    Nothing, and I mean nothing makes me as angry as seeing on the news that another defenseless child has been killed by the child’s mother’s boyfriend. Where I live it is at epidemic proportions, and no one has the answer to stop it. Nearby, there are charitable auctions every winter when the snowbirds come back that raise millions for children’s causes, yet still the abuse rages on. When will we finally come clean and acknowledge that we have failed miserably in our feeble attempts to create a utopian society devoid of God?

    What no one wants to address with this nightmare is what has happened to natural parental instincts? Have opioids driven the God given instinct to care for our own completely out of us? Has violence? Unemployment? What has changed within us that we can so coldly inflict pain and suffering of helpless children?

    As I’ve said so many times, we have a God problem, and until we recognize that and come back to Him, the poor and defenseless among us will continue to be victimized. What is so painful is that this doesn’t have to be so!!

    As Marie already stated, sorry for the rant Anna.

  5. incarceratedshadows

    Anna, as a so called intelligent species,
    we certainly have a lot to answer for.
    If we cannot even protect all innocent children,
    then we have failed miserably.

  6. incarceratedshadows

    Hi Anna,
    I do so hope my above comments
    did not come across as insincere.
    If so, I truly apologise.

  7. Interesting to learn about Mary Ellen Wilson and how the project began to take shape… Child abuse is in my opinion the worst kind of abuse, although every type is awful… Children sometimes can´t differentiate what is good and what is completely wrong. Imagine, if women being adults could at times consent abusive relationships (part of the Cycle)… and even feel shame and blame themselves… What is left for kids? .
    The statistics speak out, by the way: really sad. Thanks so much for raising awareness on this tough issue, dear Anna. Love & all the best to you 🙂

  8. I could never fathom why anyone would want to hurt a defenseless child. It’s inexcusable.

  9. Not to rain on your parade, but how would you propose to address the social issues? As a new foster parent myself, I can fully agree that the system is awful, and I feel that the kids moved to foster homes are basically just being placed on another lottery. “Here, we stole you from your abusive family. Go live with strangers (or other family/friends) who MIGHT be better. We’ll check on you in a month to make sure you’re still alive.” But even if could contact the parents and offer them assistance, help them with their “social issues,” what could I do, realistically? I can’t make them care. I can’t force them to put their kids first. Most of these parents have extreme issues themselves that they don’t want help for. And many grew up in foster and/or abusive homes themselves. Even if I could teach them what a real loving, caring, healthy family looks like, I can’t make it their normal. And if I don’t believe I could teach it one-on-one, convince them of their ability to copy it, and give them the drive to do so, how would a government or a community even begin? While I agree that too many look at child abuse as someone else’s problem, how have you made it your problem, and what do you propose the rest of do to help?

    • You highlight the essential problem which is one of the heart, precisely the point of Mary Mattison’s post. We can and should do all we can to eliminate ignorance. But that alone will not end abuse. It is one product of mankind’s sinful nature.

      Meanwhile, do we leave children in a situation where abuse or neglect are known factors or attempt to rescue them, albeit through the flawed mechanism of our foster care system? I cannot help but favor the latter approach.

      There are steps we can take to improve the foster care system. Funds for more social workers (and more manageable caseloads) would help. So would more intense and regular scrutiny of foster parents. It does not require special training to advocate for these improvements. As a society, however, we have not made them a priority.

      We need to modify the law to make adoption of children placed in foster care easier. Again, advocates are needed.

      Those interested in the welfare of children should make it a point to mentor or, if their circumstances will allow, consider adopting one of the thousands of warehoused children who are no longer infants. Concerned individuals can, in addition, become foster parents — difficult as that task may be.

      There are no easy answers. It is unlikely we will turn back the clock, and recapture the sense of community common in earlier days. Nor did that eliminate abuse which was all too often an open secret.

      Still one life saved is worth the effort.

  10. As trite as it sounds, the solution really does begin with one caring person, Church, or organization that is willing to do whatever it takes to effect change.
    I am constantly amazed at how quickly certain groups can organize,solicit funding,gather signatures,storm the halls of Congress, and effectively change the landscape of an entire nation. In other words, it CAN be done.
    The challenge to do so rests in the hearts of each of us.
    Conversely, many of us have been told NO so many times that it has had the effect of placing a muzzle on our faces,thus ensuring our silence.
    As a nation, our priorities are grossly out of order and until “we the people”demand otherwise we are not likely to see much, if any,change.
    Still,that does not give any of us a free pass to sit by and do nothing. As Anna mentioned, one life saved is worth the effort.

  11. Pingback: “Cycle of Abuse” – NarrowPathMinistries

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