Friday, October 12, 2007

Monsters and Masks: Not Just on Halloween for Child Abusers

Not all monsters have horns and tails...
The ways adults have thought of
to torture children
are diabolical and endless.
If someone can think of it,
someone has done it to a child.
Fort Smith Times Record
Opinion Piece

Can't help wondering...just how many times an abuser thinks of "it"...or anything else...before, or while, abusing a child? I'm not convinced an abuser thinks of the child, the abuse, the consequences. I'm not sure the abuser is even capable of any thought at the moment of abuse.

What could the woman who swung her baby at her boy friend be thinking? Or the woman who threw her baby at a police man (he caught it).

October is Domestic Abuse Awareness month, so a Fort Smith Times Record opinion piece, titled "Don't Let Child Abuse Continue," reminds us "to protect the victims who cannot protect themselves." The author reminds us of things we don't like to think about:

Screaming at, threatening and intimidating children can be as abusive as
beating them. Leaving terrified children locked in a dark closet is abusive.
So is constantly belittling children, telling them they are worthless and
blaming them for everything from their own beatings to the family’s
poverty...Leaving children without food or care, failing to get them medical
attention, not providing shoes for their growing feet are neglect, but so are
failing to interact with children regularly, failing to love and support them,
and failing to send them to school.

The problen is, as long as we don't want to think about these things, the easier it is for abusers to continue abusing in our misdst, to hide their monster sides behind masks or other disguises they create as these children created this Chinese Dragon. It took weeks of dedication for the children to make the dragon, to simulate the fierce bravado to "terrorize" a town for an hour. But by the end of the parade the dragon fell apart, destroyed by the children's enthusiasm and forces of nature.

Perhaps, in the long run it will be the enthusiasm of children and forces of nature that destroy the facades abusers hide behind? Perhaps when adults add protection to all children, then children will feel safe enough to speak of their abuse? Perhaps, when adults believe children instead of dismissing their stories as bids for attention, their tears as "crocodile" tears, their pains as "growing pains," then the monsters hiding behind their masks as they commit abuse will be exposed?

No longer able to hide, abusers can then receive treatment. Because abusers are so often friends, family members, or others close to the children they abuse, sometimes the abusers can contribute a necessary part in the healing of the abused child. Sometimes healing cannot take place without it.

Dr. David Wood of the Abused Child Trust, says “There’s a lot more to breaking engrained cycles of child abuse than simply finding and convicting the offenders... Somebody has got to be there to pick up the pieces after abuse has occurred.”

The dragon these children created was not repairable. Tattered and torn, not much more left than bits and pieces of paper, cardboard, glitter, paint and sticks, the adults working with the children didn't see any reason to even try. The children, however, had other ideas. The dragon was part of themselves and they wanted any salvagable part saved. And so it was.

They created a mini-dragon to hang on the wall. Outsiders might have seen only a bedraggled mini-dragon hanging on the wall, but the children no doubt saw it as a mighty one...a symbol of a glorious experience they would never forget. Not that they would ever deny the dragon's ignoble end, they didn't need to. But they would remember the weeks of their laborious construction and often frustrating preparation...working together, solving problems, creating something awesome. And they would remember the excitement, the pride, the power of making something from nothing that the town's people all came out to see and would also long remember.

With a few exceptions abusers don't exist as something separate from a child's life. With a few exceptions the abuse isn't constant, doesn't make up the entire relationship between abuser and abused. Not that the damage isn't always there, always building with each abuse, but that, with a few exceptions, there is much more to the releationship...some of it worth saving, remembering and building on to the benefit of the child.

A Child is Waiting,Take aware, Nancy Lee


JB said...

thank you.

Child Person said...

And thank you, JB! I know this site isn't for everyone so appreciate those who visit and comment.