Category Archives: Physical Abuse

View from the Crater

Pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza, Mexico, Author Daniel Schwen (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Beneath the foliage of the Yucatan peninsula and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico lies an ancient impact crater.  Scientists believe this is the site where a meteor the size of Mt. Everest struck the earth, resulting in extinction of the dinosaurs.  Sixty-five million years later, geologic evidence for that impact is still present.

It is not uncommon for abuse victims to view abuse as the central event in their lives, and to define themselves with reference to it.

As with the Chicxulub crater, evidence of the abuse is still present years later.  Forever after, that destructive event (or series of events) will be the dividing line in victims’ lives:  pre-abuse and post-abuse, the difference between innocence and innocence lost.

All too many women and children will die, as a result of abuse – some at the hands of a loved one, some by their own hand, years after the abuse has technically “ended”.  Those who survive the trauma are likely to suffer from permanent physical and psychological symptoms, impacting all aspects of their lives.

There is nothing positive to be said about abuse.  Because of its very magnitude, however, survivors may find that abuse serves as a kind of standard against which other events can be measured.  What are office politics, by comparison?  What are parking tickets, canceled flights, lost luggage, even stolen vehicles (so long as they do not generate more abuse)?

In a sense, we can draw strength from our bitter experience.  The abuse provides a unique perspective which puts many lesser things in their place.  We have lived through a meteor strike.  What are mere hurricanes to us?

Originally posted 2/9/14

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse

Voodoo

Voodoo dolls, Author Brendajos70, Source Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/7960800@N04/2959709431 (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

An outgrowth of the tribal religions of West Africa, Voodoo originated among Haitian slaves.  The religion varies from place to place, but generally combines belief in a chief god and many powerful spirits with ancestor worship [1][2].

Catholic saints and symbolism were superimposed on the Voodoo belief system, and Catholic hymns, prayers, relics, statues, and candles incorporated into Voodoo rituals.  Though many practitioners of Voodoo self-identify as Roman Catholic, Protestants for the most part consider Voodoo incompatible with Christianity [3].

Tragically, this attempt by slaves to cope with the cruelty and hardship to which they were subjected continues to create victims of its own.

Latarsha Sanders recently stabbed her 5 and 8 year old sons to death with a kitchen knife, subsequently telling Massachusetts police the violence was “Voodoo stuff” [4].  The older child was stabbed 50 times.  Sanders has no known history of mental illness.

Meanwhile, two sisters in a nearby community deliberately burned and scarred a 5 year old girl, and threatened to behead her 8 year old brother, in the course of a Voodoo ritual.

” ‘And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination…’ ” (Jer. 32: 35).

Many cultures have engaged in child sacrifice – the Canaanites, the Etruscans (predecessors of the Romans), the Carthaginians (contemporaries of the Romans), the Celts, the Maya, the Incas, and the Aztecs to name a few [5][6][7]. Continue reading

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Not Just Victims

Baking utensils, Author Pfctdayelise (CC BY-SA 2.5, 2.0, and 1.0 Generic)

“And if they stare
Just let them burn their eyes
On you moving.
And if they shout
Don’t let it change a thing
That you’re doing.

Hold your head up,
Hold your head up,
Hold your head up,
Hold your head high.”

–        “Hold Your Head Up”, C. White, R. Argent © Marquise Songs

A rock song from the ’70s by Argent has special relevance for abuse survivors.  Called “Hold Your Head Up” it is a reminder that we are more than just victims.

But abuse victims, by whatever name, are not known for valuing themselves highly.  To the contrary, we can barely raise our heads, let alone form a realistic view of ourselves.

The abuse to which we were subjected created a web of lies – that we were worthless, that we were undeserving of love or care.  Trapped in that web, we were denied hope, as the scars (our response to the pain) hardened around us.

Not everything we do, however, will stem from or relate to abuse.  If we focus on that aspect of our experience to the exclusion of all others, we will only enlarge the tragedy, allowing it to engulf our lives [1].

We have relationships, vocations, and beliefs:

  • We are sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. We are friends, lovers, and spouses. We are students, teachers, and mentors.
  • We are social workers, lab technicians, and police officers.  We are doctors, lawyers, dentists, and accountants.
  • We are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

We have habits, preferences, interests, skills, and abilities.  Some of us are neat-freaks; others do not pick up their socks.  Some are dog lovers; others are “cat people”.  Some of us are musical; others cannot carry a tune. A few probably play the banjo. Continue reading

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Long Term

“Sad Boy”, Author Sascha Grosser (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

A new study by the University of Utah confirms that abuse before the age of 5 can continue to have negative consequences decades later [1].

This is no surprise to abuse victims.  We know we cannot simply “snap out” of depression, anxiety, and PTSD despite the well-meaning advice of friends, family, physicians, and strangers alike.  That fact only adds to our sense of isolation.

Researchers found that:

“…those who experienced abuse or neglect early in life consistently were less successful in their social relationships and academic performance during childhood, adolescence and even during adulthood.  The effects of maltreatment did not weaken as the participants got older [2].”

The sad little boy or girl becomes the sad, lonely and/or angry man or woman.  Unfortunately, that anger is often turned inward, becoming another destructive force against which we must battle.

This has nothing to do with will power or self-control, and everything to do with who we were taught to believe we are.  Damaged, deficient, unloved and unlovable — our needs unimportant, our dreams unattainable.  Directly and indirectly, those lessons were driven home until they became part of us.

But the human spirit is amazing.  We somehow survived the onslaught, the dark rain of blows and insults.   Many of us succeeded in the work place.  Some found the internal resources to become artists, writers, and advocates.  Still more became the parents our own parents could not be.

That we continue to wrestle with our demons is no shame.  It is simply part of our reality.

He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40: 29).

[1 and 2]  Science Daily, “Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect – Study led by university researcher shows negative effects may persist into adulthood”, 1/16/18, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180116222327.htm.

With thanks to Louise Callen

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Appearances

Child abuse: x-ray of infant with multiple rib fractures, Author/Source National Institutes of Health (PD as work of federal gov’t).

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Another house of horrors was uncovered this week, this time in Riverside, CA.  Thirteen siblings were found emaciated, living in dark and stomach-churning conditions – several shackled to their beds – in a suburban tract home that to all outward appearances seemed normal [1][2].

David and Louise Turpin are being charged with dozens of counts of torture, child abuse, and abuse of dependent adults.  Their children range in age from 2 y.o. to 29 y.o.

Journals by the children have been recovered documenting the torture which included starvation, beatings, chaining, repeated strangulation, and refusal to allow the children to use bathroom facilities or bathe for months on end [3].  Many of the children have cognitive impairment and neurologic deficits as a result.  The 17 y.o. girl who somehow managed to escape and call police is so stunted she looks 10 y.o.  Her 29 y.o. sister weighs 82 lbs.

How is any civilized human being to react to this [4]?  Shock and disgust are followed closely by outrage.  How could this happen, we ask ourselves helplessly.

Regulatory Failure

This was depravity of the highest order, beyond the comprehension of most normal people.  But there was at least one gross regulatory failure.

The home in question was for the past 7 years listed by the California Dept. of Education as the Sandcastle Day School, a private K-12 campus with David Turpin as principal.

Supposedly the Accrediting Commission of Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) conducts a “comprehensive accreditation of public and private schools” in California, at least according to the US Dept. of Education website it does [5].  One cannot help but wonder how “comprehensive” that process was, in this case.

California does not feel it necessary to “approve” or certify private schools which do not provide special education [6].  There is no licensing required by the 3000 private schools listed with the California Dept. of Education.  There are no audits conducted.  California private schools are permitted simply to file an annual affidavit as to their operation.  Teacher certification is, also, optional.

Of course, there were no annual fire inspections conducted here either.  Had there been, this travesty would have come to light sooner.

The Turpins, it should be added, lived for many years in Texas before moving to California.  The abuse of their eldest children would have begun there.

Whether they claimed to conduct a private school in Texas is not currently known [7].  The chances are they did.  Otherwise their children would have been required to attend school (or investigated as truant).

The Human Heart

To say that appearances can be deceiving is an understatement.   If we are to protect our children, we cannot accept banal statements of compliance with the law at face value.  The darkness of the human heart has no limits.  We should by now have learned that.

Woe to you…For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:  27).

[1]  Daily Hampshire Gazette, “Parents arrested after children found shackled and malnourished in California home” by Paloma Esquivel and Joel Rubin of Los Angeles Times, 1/15/18, http://www.gazettenet.com/Parents-arrested-14920013.

[2]  CNN, “ ‘This is depraved conduct,’ DA says of couple accused of torturing kids” by Madison Park et al, 1/18/18, http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/18/us/turpin-family-investigation/index.html.

[3]  The Washington Post, “Starved, chained and unbathed:  Police describe the lives of 13 siblings held captive in their home” by Marwa Eltagouri, 1/18/18, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/01/18/13-children-were-starved-at-home-with-some-chained-to-their-beds-police-called-it-depraved/?utm_term=.13a3a36bc663.

[4]  This is the type of horrific situation police, social workers, and child advocates confront on a regular basis.  These professionals experience secondary trauma, as a result.

[5]  US Dept. of Education, California, Private Schools, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oii/nonpublic/california.html.

[6]  The Edwardsville Intelligencer, “Lawmakers seek home school oversight after 13 found captive” by Michael Balsamo and Kathleen Ronayne of the Associated Press, 1/17/18, https://www.theintelligencer.com/news/education/article/No-rules-for-California-home-schools-where-13-12503357.php.

[7]  The Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC) oversees private schools in that state.  See, Texas Private School Accreditation Commission, https://www.tepsac.org/#/home.

 

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Online Predators

“Danger Mines!” Warning sign re:  hidden mine shafts, Sri Lanka, Author Adam Jones, Source Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

We have all heard reports of online child molesters who haunt websites popular with children and teens; assume false identities; make use of the details on public profiles to entice victims to a meeting; then abduct them.  Any parent’s blood would run cold at the thought.

Far more often, however, it is statutory rape rather than abduction that results from online predation [1][2].

Research shows that the vast majority of teens who interact with an unknown individual online are aware when that individual is an adult, whether the interaction is via email, instant messaging or a chatroom.  Any deception that takes place is more likely to involve love than identity.

If the adult is a predator (typically 10 or more years older than the victim), sex is usually mentioned up front, and most victims who meet predators “face to face” anticipate having sex.  As many as 73% of victims have repeat sexual encounters with the predator.

This is not to suggest that our children do not need protection from online predators.  To the contrary, what this research reveals is that our children remain vulnerable throughout their teens.  A dire warning about abduction will not suffice to dissuade them from dangerous activity.

What is needed is a three-pronged approach, directed at tweens and young teens; older teens; and young people of all ages inclined toward high risk behavior.

Naivete (Ages 12-14)

Tweens and young teens may mimic sophistication.  They do not, however, have the maturity to engage in intimate relationships.  Nor can they protect themselves against the advances of a predator without training.

Children in this age range need to be educated about the various types of websites that exist, and alerted to the risky situations they can encounter online.

Parents and guardians should clarify that it is wrong for an adult to make romantic overtures toward a child, attempt to elicit a sexual response from a child, or take advantage of a child’s curiosity about sex.

It is important that tweens and young teens be provided opportunities to practice resistance and refusal techniques.  Children should be assured that rudeness toward an adult is entirely acceptable in self-defense. Continue reading

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Footprints in the Snow

Jackson Park, Chicago, Field Museum Library, Source Flickr (No known copyright restrictions)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) has arrested 69 y.o. James Morris, Jr. on charges of sodomy, second and third degree sex offenses, child abuse, and perverted practice [1].  Further charges are possible.

ICAC investigators received a tip that Morris was sexually abusing young teens.  An investigation disclosed multiple victims over some 27 years.  A search warrant at Morris’ home revealed computer and other electronic equipment believed related to the production of child pornography.

Terror and Seduction

Maryland Criminal Law, Section 3-306 prohibits sexual acts without the consent of another by force or threat of force; where the victim is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless; and where the victim is under 14 y.o.  Criminal Law, Section 3-307 explains that threats may involve death, suffocation, strangulation, disfigurement, serious physical injury, and kidnapping.

These statutes give us some idea of the terror children who are sexually exploited can experience.  Children can, also, be lured and seduced by a “friendly” predator.

Inadequate Community Response

This travesty was ongoing for decades.  Some in the community, it seems, suspected.  Until now, no one took it upon themselves to register a complaint.

Footprints in the Snow

Pedophiles do not send up smoke signals.  They cannot be identified by the grimy raincoats they wear.  Like footprints in the snow, however, the evidence of their passing is the imprint left on the lives of the children with whom such predators have come into contact. Continue reading

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Scandal…Yet Again

Scales of Justice with emblem of Holy See, Author Ktr101 (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Just when the dust appeared to have settled, the Catholic Church sex scandal has expanded to a new venue.  This time the setting is Australia.  The proportions are massive.

A Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has uncovered the widespread abuse of children by religious schools and other institutions [1].  Most of those suspected are Catholic priests and religious brothers.

Tens of thousands of children were impacted.  While the exact number of victims cannot be known, the abuse extended across generations.

The Commission’s official report reads, in part:

“It is not a case of a few rotten apples.  Society’s major institutions have seriously failed.  In many cases those failings have been exacerbated by a manifestly inadequate response to the abused person.  The problems have been so widespread, and the nature of the abuse so heinous, that it is difficult to comprehend.”

More than 4400 victims have come forward and more than 4000 institutions been implicated.  In numerous cases, the commission found those in leadership were aware of the abuse, but failed to take effective action. Continue reading

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“Why I Am Leaving” by blackbirds2015

Social worker, Grace Abbott, a tireless advocate for child welfare, Library of Congress, Div. of Prints and Photographs (Digital ID cph.3c11723) (PD-US, No Known Restrictions on Publication)

I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land.  I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall…” (Ezek. 22: 30 NLT).

Social workers are among the most dedicated and selfless people on earth. They stand in the gap when parenting and other institutions that should serve our children fail.

The tragedy is that we have our priorities skewed, as a society.  We shower sports figures and others with countless millions, but expect those charged with protecting our children to subsist on a pittance, and carry impossible workloads.

This is a heartrending post by a dedicated social worker dealing with burn-out.  It speaks volumes about the broken foster care system.

“I love my job.  Really, I do.  I love some of the foster parents and some of the kids and some of the bio parents.  I love working with the courts and knowing that I have a good reputation with them.  I love the flexibility and the ability to work from home.  I love returning kids home or helping them gain independence.  There are some biological families that I still talk to and I love them as well.

What I don’t love: turning kids into numbers, meeting dashboards instead of needs, looking out for the best interest of DCF instead of the child.  I can’t keep up with the changing policies and new requirements; the updated trainings, changes to our computer system, and the daily threat that I could really get hurt by someone.”

TO READ MORE, go to Social Work(er)ing at: https://threecatsandababy.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/why-i-am-leaving/

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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“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. Continue reading

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