Thursday, January 24, 2008

Survivors Can Thrive!: I've Created a "Survivor Needs" Meme

Marj from "Survivors Can Thrive" threw
the ball to Megan Bayless from "Imaginif..."

Asked her to play in the "Survivor's Needs" meme.
Then Megan threw the ball to me.
Now I'm throwing it to you!
Catch it if you can!

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about? When Megan made me "it" I didn't even know what a Meme was! I also wasn't sure I wanted to play! Well, play I did, and learned what others already know...playing a Meme is a bit like playing Chess. You can learn the moves and play it light for fun...or play it as though your life depends on it... As a survivor I know two things about playing hard ball with my past. One is that sometimes it hurts to play. The other is that it always leaves me feeling lighter and stronger.

The Way to Play Marj’s Meme.

1. Please link back to Marj's post so people can see the origins of the meme, get ideas for their own self-care list, see who’s already been tagged, and maybe we can track how far this meme goes.

2. List 25 needs. and five wants. Try to restrict your needs list to things that have to do with being a survivor of some sort of abuse, assault, etc.

3. List 5 wants. Your wants list can be anything you want!

4. Use this list to remind yourself to get your needs met in this New Year.

5. Pass on the meme and tag five people to play the meme with you.

So, Here's my Survivor's Needs Meme...

My 25 Needs. As a Survivor of Child Sexual Assault and a Survivor of Other Physical, Emotional, Psychological Abuse and Neglect Throughout my Childhood and Beyond, and also as a Survivor of Perpetrating Abuse and Neglect on My Children:

1. I need release from having fear as my constant companion, day and night, as it's been since my very early childhood.
2. I need to be free to do whatever necessary to feel safe in my home, in my mind, and around people who are not threatening to me.
3. I need to be free to do whatever necessary to minimize stress in my life, in order to maximize the conditions conducive to maintaining the level of mental health I have achieved.
4. I need to be free to stop participating in my own use, abuse and neglect.
5. I need to learn saying NO is healthy and appropriate, and act accordingly.
6. I need release from the lingering sense of guilt and shame that as a child I somehow caused adults to abuse and neglect me.
7. I need to be free to feel what I know to be true…no child causes the bad behaviors of adults; no child deserves the terrible things some adults, including me, do to innocent children.
8. I need release from the lingering guilt and shame over failing my own children as a parent in so many ways, and in failing to break the cycle of abuse and neglect of generations that came before us.
9. I need to be free to feel pride about the many good things I did for my children that continue on as good things in the lives of some of my grandchildren.
10. I need to be free to feel the forgiveness my children have given me for lacking the necessary awareness, skills, knowledge, and strength to fully protect them from myself.
11. I need to feel responsible for my failures as a parent, but not accept blame for other's failures and inappropriate behaviors towards my children.
12. I need to be free to feel good about the many ways I did protect my children from others and myself who would have harmed them.
13. I need release from guilt and shame that I'm not doing enough to protect other children from abuse and neglect.
14. I need to be free to feel pride over what I have done for other children.
15. I need to be free from guilt and shame that I don't try harder to accomplish a goal I believe may help some children.
16. I need to feel so safe in ways I can't even imagine that I feel free to develop trusting relationships.
17. I need to be free to do whatever necessary to feel safe without feeling I'm being selfish.
18. I need to feel loved in spite of my negative experiences and imperfections as a child and an adult, not feel that no one could love me or even like me if he or she knew all about me.
19. I need continued personal acceptance of my own responsibility for doing the best I can with what each day contains.
20. I need to be free to continue doing everything possible to open the discussion of child abuse and neglect to the children who are abused and neglected, and to the adults who abuse and neglect children. Professionals need to listen to both voices. Truth, like a diamond, has many faces.
21. I need to believe that although I was injured and remain scarred as a result, I am not "less than" or "damaged goods."
22. I need my acceptance of myself as developmentally challenged in early life through no fault of my own. Although I can never be whatever I might have been in other circumstances, I have many gifts and talents to use to accomplish my goals as I am.
23. I need others to understand that I am not all black or all white, not all good, nor all evil. That does not mean I think being human is an excuse for child abuse and neglect. There are no excuses, in my opinion. But there are reasons that can and must be addressed.
24. I need someone to believe that I would do or give anything to have lived a different life. I didn't grow up dreaming of abusing and neglecting my children as a goal, watching as the cycle continued on to my grandchildren. I don't believe anyone does.
25. I need you to know after a lifetime of change, I am what I am, was what I was, and will be what I will, with or without your judgment, with or without your sincere acceptance, with or without your empathic understand. It is the children who are abused and neglected and their perpetrators who need your support for change, now.

1. I want to use my education and passion to increase awareness of child abuse and neglect issues to spur others to fight for changes I believe are possible. I want millions of people to unite for children's rights as some have for other oppressed peoples.
2. I want more people to do whatever necessary to become better educated so they understand that child abuse and neglect will not ever be stopped by locking up perpetrators. Yes, those who abuse and neglect children should be identified, held responsible, treated, educated, punished, and monitored, as needed, and in some cases even locked up for a lifetime. But we need to replace failing systems with new and creative solutions to this global problem if children will ever have the childhoods they deserve and need in which to thrive and become healthy adults who would never, even accidentally or out of ignorance, abuse or neglect a child.
3. I want to pursue my lifelong dream for which I prepared by investing many years of my time, and many thousands of your tax dollars in student loans that may never get repaid, (but I assure you, aren't in default!) All of that together hasn't been enough to overcome such low self-esteem that in spite of excellent training, writing and illustrating picture books for abused and neglected children seems still beyond my abilities.
4. I want to wake up feeling glad to be alive and eager to live each new day, not wake up feeling soul weary, not wishing I was dead, not dreading whatever the day might bring.
5. I want my mental health medications and support systems to continue working as well as, or better than, they have for fifteen years now, so that I can continue to be "high functioning" on behalf of children everywhere. for

Blogs I Tagged:

Cerebral Mum
The OTHER Mother
Reflections of a Foster Youth
Sunshine Girl on a Rainy Day – Lisa
Child Care Gone Wrong Jumping in Puddles at Life Spacing

...and one for good measure...
She Knows Message Board

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tagged! Meme About Child abuse and Neglect.

Today I got tagged by Megan Bayless at
Imaginif…Child Protection Became Serious Business

I caught a viral meme from her...Actually two...
I'll do one today, another tomorrow...
Be Ready! You could be tagged next...

Can't help wondering...
what you're wondering about? Naturally after getting tagged by Megan, I'm wondering about Meme's...sounds like Me- me, doesn't it? Only starts that way...its really more about us...

I still don't know a lot about what Meme means exactly...
but I'm learning fast... and it's fascinating! I think it's Vygotsky-like in basic premise?... something Vachss might go for? Well, here goes....

First I'm supposed to provide the following rules for this one, called
"Seven Random Things About Me":

1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
4. Tag seven random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.

And so now I'm supposed to do what the rules say to do...

but only to share what I'm comfortable with. Are they kidding me? I'm not comfortable with much of anything in this world... so here are seven random things about me that make sense to share here. I admit some might say in the end they all add up to only one…do you agree?

"Seven Random Things About Me."

1. I survived severe physical, sexual, emotional and psychological child abuse and neglect from my birth parents. The damage that resulted was extensive. At 65, after over 40 years of treatment from many great psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors with ever changing therapeutic techniques and medications as they came on the market, I continue to deal with several mental illnesses that will never be cured. I still feel less than and no good for anything.

2. I achieved much in my lifetime academically. Although a high school dropout almost 40 years ago, after I reached a level of what is labeled "high functioning" I returned to school, picked up the pieces and earned a BFA, 2 MA's and almost a PhD during the past fifteen years. I still feel as stupid as I ever did...and believe me, that's stupid big time!

3. I failed much in my lifetime, most painfully in almost all my relationships. Two rocky marriages ended in divorce. One lasted 7 years, and the second 22 years. There will not be a third. I have a STD and will not ever take a chance of sharing that with someone I claim to love as was done to me. I avoid social and personal connections. I still fear people, even those closest to me.

4. I abused and neglected my three children. Continuing the cycle of abuse and neglect against my own children is the failure that hurts the most. I swore I'd never do what was done to me. Although I actively sought help many times I wasn't able to stop for many years. Doctors dismissed my concerns with garbage about child resilience and how, when I was better, I'd be a better parent. Child abuse and neglect were not even considered a problem until the 1970's so that was the prevailing attitude. I still feel somehow I should have been better, stronger, more able to protect my children from my harm to them.

5. I weakened some links in my personal cycle of child abuse and neglect. On the positive side, when I understood that my parenting, although ever improving as I healed, and healthier than that of my parents who had no help, was dangerous and had hurt my children terribly, I fought for help for them while they were still children. I still feel it wasn't enough. Some of my grandchildren paid the price and may still be doing so. They are adopted. I still hurt every day when I pray for and think of them.

6. I accept my responsibility for abusing my children, and I accept the rewards from fighting to end it. Nothing I do will ever make up for the harm I did to my own children, but today I find peace in seeing the wonderful mother my youngest daughter is for her children. I find joy in the relationship she and I have developed over time. I find pride in knowing my efforts and honesty with her made my healthy grandchildren possible. I still feel too ashamed of my past to fight my son-in-law for the right to be more involved with them.

7. I am addicted to learning, educating and raising awareness of others about the cost to children and society from child abuse and neglect. This is an addiction I feel no need to overcome. The prevention, treatment, and amelioration of effects resulting from child abuse are possible. Child maltreatment can be stopped. A lot of determined voices are needed to make that happen. I am every moment grateful for God's grace and wisdom, for the gift of the strength to continue the work I do on behalf of abused and neglected children. I still believe…

Here are the Seven Random Blogs I'm Tagging for "Seven Random Things About Me":

Cerebral Mum

The OTHER Mother

Reflections of a Foster Youth

Sunshine Girl on a Rainy Day – Lisa

Child Care Gone Wrong

Jumping in Puddles at Life Spacings

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Monday, January 14, 2008

The worst they had ever seen…

Social workers involved in the case said
the abuse and neglect were
the worst they had ever seen…

Can't help wondering... what you're wondering about when people, sometimes including social workers and judges, say a case of child abuse and neglect is "the worst they had ever seen?"

Ever notice how often those words are used in articles on child abuse and neglect cases? Makes me want to scream, "then maybe its time you opened your eyes so you will see what's happening all around you!" Every day accounts of horrific child abuse and neglect are in the news. Sometimes pictures are included…

On what scale can anyone possibly weigh any child abuse and neglect as "worst" whether of those seen, or otherwise? On which scale are there markings in green for acceptable levels of abuse, orange for iffy ones, and red for worst abuses? And why, on what scale of justice, is remorse enough to tip the scale in favor of the person who committed the worst abuse ever seen?

The following details may bother you to see...
I'm sure they bothered the children more to feel…

In one case in today's news, the 4-5 year old child was covered with bruises and "seriously malnourished," had "sometimes been tied up and her mouth taped shut," and "kept in the basement many times." The child was placed with the woman by a system that failed to "see" the problems until neighbors complained.
And the court's decision on this one? Because the woman showed remorse, the judge decided against a jail term. She is sentenced to "counseling for alcohol and drug abuse and for anger management, and, if required, go into a residential program for treatment of problems with alcohol." What does it say about a system where "the worst they had ever seen" receives no more than that as a sentence?
Another case today, described as "among the 'most devastating' he's seen" involved a toddler with chemical burns on her face, hands and eyes that could result in her "losing her vision," According to the account, "The girl also suffered hemorrhages in both eyes and at least 50 cuts on her hands. Doctors discovered seven broken bones in her left hand and five in her right, which they believe were caused by “violent squeezing or blows directly to the hands,” the documents state…. Patches of her hair were missing as were two teeth, injuries which doctors’ said were consistent with blunt force trauma."

Seeing may be believing, but sometimes not seeing doesn't mean not believing... sometimes not seeing means having to believe something worse than what you might have seen had you been willing to see in the first place.

Share Information on At Risk Children
" one seemed to have noticed that, for at least two weeks, they hadn’t seen the four children living there. The marshals made a horrifying discovery: The girls, ages 5, 6, 11 and 17, were all dead, apparently killed by their mother…"

We can't share, what we won't see. If we see more, share more, maybe someday there won't be any more "worst cases" of child abuse and neglect for anyone to see?

[You will see there are 2,890,000 hits for "worst child abuse ever seen"!]

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Village that Razes its Children?

Does anyone really believe that
"no child is left behind" in America?
Has anyone ever actually visited
that mythical "village" that is raising our children?

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about?

I wonder if we are fast becoming the village that razes its children. Every day children are abused and neglected by a society that fights against their best interests while piously claiming to do otherwise. Society spouts slogans like No Child Left Behind at the same time it makes choices that deprive millions of children of even the most basic educational tools such as books, environments in which learning is possible, and teachers capable of facilitating learning experiences. We have children taking computer classes in schools that have no computers. We have schools that have inadequate plumbing so children lack access to working water fountains, or functioning toilettes, where children bring blankets to school to keep warm because budget cuts force abnormally lowered classroom temperatures. We have teachers assigned to teach subjects for which they have no training, while others have such poor English skills or heavy accents that students can't understand what is said.

We know that a child without reading skills will fall behind by 4th grade with no chance to ever fully recover from the loss. And yet from age 9 on children's reading skills decline along with any interest in reading. When California actually uses 4th grade reading levels to project the need for future jail capacity, society pays the price along with the individuals it abused and neglected as children by failing to educate them.

Recent NEA research, reported in To Read or Not to Read: A National Consequence, shows that reading transforms lives regardless of their "social circumstances," increases the chances of "academic and economic success" and appears to "awaken a person's social and civic sense." According to the report, reading is essential to developing the productive, active adults and healthy communities essential to a "prosperous, free society." The end result is a nation that fails as it failed its children.

Society also abuses children by neglecting their health and safety needs. Battling against SCHIP isn't the only example. Every night, 12 million children go to bed hungry. Too often the excuse for the neglect and abuse of the nation's children is a lack of money. But one issue makes clear how hollow that claim is. Remember nine years ago when there was a lot of talk, with politicians and corporations fluffing each other's feathers, everyone congratulating themselves about the importance of protecting children from the known dangers of smoking and what they were going to do? Remember how some of the tobacco settlement money would be used to educate children? Remember all the promises?

A recent report, A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement Nine Years Later, shows once again how willing we are to ignore child abuse and neglect at any level of society. It also proves once again that the claim of absence of money as a reason for not stopping the abuse and neglect of children is nothing more than a cheap excuse. In this case the money is there. The states won't spend it as intended…to protect children.

According to this report:
"Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, claiming more lives every year – more than 400,000 – than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, illegal drugs and fires combined. Tobacco use costs the nation nearly $100 billion a year in health care bills. Every day, more than 1,000 kids become new regular smokers and another 1,200 Americans die because of tobacco use."

So in essence, every day while primary caretakers kill 4 or 5 children, society participates in the future killing of another 1000 kids. States spend only 3% (not the minimum 6.4% recommended by the CDC) of the $24.9 billion tobacco money they receive on "prevention and cessation" programs that are proven to work.

This year, as the tobacco industry spends $13.4 billion to market tobacco, the states will spend only $717.2 million of the tobacco settlement money to prevent smoking. More children will decline in reading skills, go to bed hungry, die for lack of health care. Anything wrong with that?

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Warm Beer and Cold Pizza for Breakfast

...a third of the mothers
and half of the fathers
whose children have sipped alcohol
are not aware of it.

Can't help wondering... what you're wondering about today. I'm wondering about young children's experiences with alcohol.

And I'm remembering so many mornings rushing to beat my brothers to the leftover cold pizza crusts and cans with warm beer left in them. I can't say for sure when we started that, but my earliest memories put me about 7 or 8, which would have made them 5 1/2- 61/2 and 4-5. Mom and Dad worked swing shift (4-12). Then they "closed" the bar and brought home pizza and beer. They sat at the table smoking, eating, drinking and arguing until they staggered off to bed. Whatever they left on the table was fair dibs for breakfast for the first kid there.

Sometimes that was only a sip in every can. Other times a lot. And sometimes it meant a nasty surprise of a mouthful of soggy tobacco if one of them dropped a cigarette butt in it. The pizza leftovers usually had cigarette butts crushed out on them, too, but at least we could see and eat around them. We sipped from beer cans any time they were open and available...which was most of the time. They gave us sips. Their friends gave us sips. On Saturdays and Sundays when they took us with them to the bar, even strangers gave us sips, along with the chips...and ocassional slobbery kiss.

We started smoking around that time, too. First we just lit the crushed out Raleigh butts and puffed on them. But Mom and Dad each smoked two packs a day so when leaving the house they often took new packs them. That left packs lying around with just a couple in each, there for the easy taking. Eventually smoking more meant taking new packs which got us in trouble, but my brother figured out if we took two packs at a time and moved the others forward, they didn't notice.

In our house, beer was the preferred drink, but hard alcohol was there, too, for running out of beer. It also served as a useful way to make us sleep when cranky, soothe painful gums when teething, treat cuts, numb sore throats, and later treat the many toothaches resulting from poor dental hygiene and lack of dental care. Most of all, alcohol was simply a way of life.

Sadly, it turns out our early experiences weren't that unusual. Consider the following recent research:

Children are Introduced to Sipping and Tasting Alcohol in The Home
Findings indicate that the introduction to alcohol occurs long before adolescence, and it is an experience that occurs in the home.

Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder at Risk for Alcohol Problems
"Two new studies help to confirm that ADHD is a risk factor for alcohol problems; adding that parental alcoholism and stressful experiences in the family play an important role in this risk...for example, 42 percent of those children with ADHD who also had serious, persistent behavior problems [later] had alcohol abuse or dependence by the age of 18 to 25."

Access to Alcohol Among Middle School Children
"The proportion of alcohol users is also disturbing; 17% at the start of the 6th grade and more than twice as many, 41% by the end of the 8th grade. The study reminds parents that they need to consider their positions as role models at the crucial time when their middle school children are likely to have their first serious encounters with alcohol."

Underage Drinking Starts before Adolescence
"...a new study finds that parents and teachers should pay attention to alcohol prevention starting as early as fourth grade."

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee