Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Opposite of Child Abuse is More Than the Absence of Abuse and Neglect

The child is not honored if we always expect him to grow up, because a child is not grown up.~Thomas Moore~

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about?
Recognizing child abuse is becoming easier for the average person to identify as ever increasing numbers of organizations and individuals dedicate their efforts to raising awareness about what commissions and omissions constitute child abuse and neglect. However, there is more to providing children with positive, nurturing environments than simply eliminating abuse and neglect from their lives. Although, admittedly, protecting children by eliminating abuse and neglect from the lives of children remains an important priority for many of us. Recently a dear friend shared with me her beautiful thoughts on what children need and deserve as basic rights. Here, with her permission, I share them with you...

First and foremost, a child must know that he is safe and secure. This
sounds so simple, but it is anything but simple. In order for a child to be
free to explore his territory and/or abilities, he must know that his
guardians are exactly that, guarding him. Clear, precise, and consistent
boundaries give a child a sense of security. He must know what is and is not
allowed. Knowing he has someone to firmly guide and protect him relieves him
of fear and a premature sense that he should know those kinds of things
himself. His mental age must always be considered and understood. Words
used should be relative to his level of understanding. Over-explaining
causes confusion and frustration. Simple, short, and clear communication is
quickly processed by a young child. More thorough explanations will come
when the child is able to communicate on that same level. He will question
why he should or shouldn't do something.

A part of preparing the child for living in her future world is to give her
a realistic understanding of her position in the family and in society.
Allowing her to be the center of attention for too much time, or giving her
the sense that everything centers on her and what she wants to do creates a
false sense of self-importance and empowerment. The child needs to know that
she is an integral part of the family and that there are other members who
have equal importance. It is unfair to the child to allow her to think that
everyone will focus on her and that others do not have valuable status. It
is important for parents to take care of their own needs, do their work, and
go on with their own lives so that they are setting an example to the child
as to how to live her life in the future. Not only that, she learns to
respect the lives of others. There must be a balance to all of this, of
course. The child should not be ignored and left to fend for herself. On the
other hand, it is important for her to know how to entertain herself and
allow the other members of the family to do the same.

Parents must set some boundaries for themselves, also. It's important to
know that children will take all of the attention that anyone will give to
them. It is physically impossible to give the child all of the attention
they want and still live a normal life. Not only that, as I have stated
above, it is unfair to the child. When the parents go on with their lives
much as they did before they had a child, while giving the child an
appropriate amount of attention, meeting their needs and treating them as
valuable little people, the child assumes a realistic position within the
family, neither as the center nor head of it. The child learns the function
of all the roles of each family member. Thus, they become a functional
family rather than the dysfunctional family that has gotten so much
attention in the last few years.

Children need to see that there is a special relationship between the mother
and father that is different from that which involves them. This can be done
by setting clear boundaries around that relationship and not including the
child in a way that might give the child the impression that they are a part
of that particular interaction. Sometimes it must be husband and wife, only.
Making this differentiation is extremely important for the child's future
relationships. This should be done in a natural, subtle manner without
making the child feel unimportant or rejected. Remember that the child is
recording what he sees and experiences for future use. He learns what he
sees far more clearly and permanently than what he is told. Words mean much
less than actions.

Discipline, coming from the word disciple, further explains this concept.
Children are disciples of their parents. It is as simple as that. The
parents teach the children how to act by what they themselves do. A mother
who allows the father to abuse her is telling the child that abuse is
acceptable and that she, too, can be abused. The father is teaching the
child that it is acceptable to treat a woman in this manner. Telling the
child otherwise will have little effect. On a more positive note, parents
treating each other with kindness and respect are teaching the child to do
the same. To discipline a child is to show her how to behave rather than
tell her. Correcting a child's behavior is showing her how to do what is
appropriate, not focusing on the wrong doing. Telling a child to not do
something leaves her focused on that same action without knowing what the
appropriate action is. Smacking or spanking a child for something she has
done is more confusing to the child than any other action. Not only has she
not been shown the appropriate action to be done, the person she loves and
trusts with her life has just told her that she is not safe with that
person. The child is already frustrated and confused, now she is in fear of
her protector. Nothing is solved by striking a child in any manner.
Threatening to strike a child is bullying, sending the message that the
parent is bigger than the child and therefore able to hurt her. Added to the
hurt the child realizes that she is no longer safe and secure with those she
has trusted, their love can quickly be replaced with inflicted pain.

Using violence, spanking a child, is a sign that the parent has chosen not
to try to deal with the situation, but to take the easy way out for herself.
However, the parent has lost in the long run. The relationship that has been
so diligently and lovingly developed has been spoiled. Many people have
been taught that the Bible states that a parent should not "spare the rod"
and they think this literally means an actual rod. What has not been
explained is that the word rod is meant as a "standard", a discipline, a way
of behaving. Yes, parents must provide solid standards, principals and
values by which the child can adhere, boundaries and examples. But, at no
time is anyone directed to strike a child. Should the child need a firm
hand, that hand should be used to help the child change his behavior, not
strike him. A child should always trust that when a hand of his parent
reaches towards him, it is coming to give him love and assistance. Fear
should never come between the parent and child. Firmly removing a child from
the offending behavior, removing the object from his possession, lovingly
restraining him from the action, allows him to understand that the parent is
in control and can be trusted to stop him if and when he goes beyond the set
boundaries. It is the action that the child responds to, not just the words.
He is depending on his parents to keep him within the standards they have
set for him.

Allowing the child too much time to correct his actions is teaching him that
he can delay responding to the parent's request or command. He will take as
long as the parent allows. Correcting once and then enforcing it with action
- helping to make the right move - teaches the child that one correction is
enough. Otherwise, the child is put in an unfair position of assuming that
he has authority that he does not yet have. The right to discuss the
directions given by the parent will come well after the child can talk and
reason in a rational way. This happens in growth increments throughout his
childhood. Expecting him to have reasoning abilities before his brain has
reached that stage is upsetting for him and can trigger what seems to be a
temper tantrum but is actually his way of expressing his frustration. The
child may be saying "I have lost control of my body and actions. Please help
me". This is aggravated further by giving him a swat or spanking. Holding
the child and talking to him in a calm assertive manner, reassures him that
he is safe and will be kept within the proper boundaries of behavior by his

It is important for the adult to remain in the role of parent and never
think that the small child is directing his frustration directly at the
adult. In other words, don't take it personally. Doing so will misdirect the
parent's thinking onto herself instead of the needs of the child. Separating
herself from the child's behavior allows her to remain calm and help the
child through his current drama. Keeping in mind that the child will
eventually emulate the behavior of both parents helps to keep the parents'
actions appropriate.

For a child to grow up with a healthy perspective of what it is to be a
functional adult, it is necessary that he have a solid relationship with
both parents, especially if they are both in the home. (When either parent
is raising the child alone, a whole different scenario evolves.) If one
parent dominates, the child will absorb that by osmosis! He will grow up
with an unbalanced respect for both parents, thus the same attitude toward
his spouse or mate. If the father chooses to allow the mother to do the
majority of the parenting, the child will assume the woman is the stronger
of the two. If the mother leaves the so-called disciplinary actions to the
father, then the child will fear the father and rule the mother. For him to
experience a loving relationship with both parents and have equal respect
for both roles, he needs to know that he can depend on both of them to keep
him safe, provide for his needs, and prevent him from going beyond the
boundaries they have set for him. This is not to say that they must spend
equal time with the child or that their responsibilities are the same. Every
family will have different situations.

A family in which both parents have jobs outside the home will have
different duties than a family who has a stay-at-home mother or father. Just
as the parent who stays at home is not expected to go out and work a
full-time job, the parent who goes out to work is not expected to spend
equal time with the child as the parent who stays at home. In order to
provide a functional relationship for the child to emulate, both adults must
recognize that their jobs are of equal importance and show respect for each
other. The amount of time that each parent spends with the child should be
agreed upon by both parents without either having unspoken expectations. The
child needs to feel a balance in his relationship with each parent and to
know that both parents will be consistent in providing the security he needs
within the same set of boundaries. If one parent only plays with the child
and assumes no other responsibilities while the other takes on all the
responsibilities, rarely having time to play, that does not provide balance.
A child needs to know that he can turn to either parent at any time in his
life and receive similar support and guidance....[Author: SS 2009]

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Friday, December 11, 2009

Congress Pressed to Act to Curb Child-Abuse Deaths - ABC News

Congress Pressed to Act to Curb Child-Abuse Deaths - ABC News

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

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Congress Pressed to Act to Curb Child-Abuse Deaths - ABC News

Congress Pressed to Act to Curb Child-Abuse Deaths - ABC News

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

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Intercourse at 8 and 9...not mine! you say. Really?

Those people who say that

kids don't have sex at that young of age

should think again.

Can't help wondering...

what you're wondering about when you think of children 8 and 9 years old having intercourse?

Today Science Daily reports, “Low-income Kids Report First Sexual Intercourse At 12 Years Of Age In New National Study.” The co-author of the study, Brenda Lohman, admits to being shocked and says, "Definitely the age is the most shocking thing about this study."

Reminds me of the childhood ditty- “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby…..”? Makes me wonder if maybe the modern version goes…. “First comes sex, then comes baby with a baby carriage, then along comes another to the unmarried mother… “ Forget those old fashioned values like love and marriage. They got thrown out along with the baby’s bath water.

Unlike Lohman, I’m not shocked over much these days when it comes to children and the lives they live. But for me there is another shocking aspect of kiddie sex, besides the very young ages of the children in this study, that is not addressed in this article. Call it something like changing parental attitudes...or let's call it like it is...another form of child abuse and neglect.

Once upon a time, and even more so today, some parents gave their children access to alcohol at home because, they said, “Kids are going to drink somewhere anyway, and we’d rather it be in our home where we can know they are safe.” Today some parents espouse the same reason for providing their young children with contraceptive measures and privacy to have their sexual experiences at home.” Hello?!

Will someone please tell these parents that “Safe Sex” does not mean putting the girl on the pill, and encouraging their youthful liaisons at home instead of in some mall bathroom. One 14 year old girl’s great-grandmother recently called me in a panic because the family had decided to put the child on the pill so that she would not get pregnant as her 16 year old cousin recently did. The great-grandmother was amazingly calm about the possibility the girl might be having sex, but near hysteria because no one would listen to her concerns about the risk of STD’s. She wanted me to talk to the girl...a young friend of mine for nearly five years now. I did.

The girl already has an active sex life- has already had pregnancy false alarms. Her family- mother, father, aunts, uncles and grandparents decided because she was so generally immature that she might forget to take the pill the mother should ask the doctor to give her “the shot.” The doctor said no, too young, and prescribed the pill. Then the parents decided the next best thing to do to protect their child would be to allow sleep-overs so they would know where she is and with whom she is doing what. Alcohol included? Other drugs? Who knows. One is tempted to ask... so who cares?

Unusual family? No. A situation common only among the lower socio-economic levels? No. A growing epidemic among the young struggling with youthful hormones, early sexualization, easy access to every kind of sexualized entertainment and social media, and an all too obvious breakdown of family morals, values and basic concerns for the health and welfare of the young? My guess is yes.

Let’s get real. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Let’s face what is before it isn’t only 20-30% of children under 16 having intercourse…and making babies…and spreading STD’s…and looking to us, the society that ignored them, to provide for them all… for happily ever after.

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Child Abuse Legend- A Journey of Healing

I turn to you who have known pain and fear
And failure and despair,
And in your eyes I read companionship
And though your cloak be threadbare,
Half of it is mine.
You are my friend.
Lila Cabot Perry

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about as you look at this little lost dog who took a long journey far from home and wanted nothing more than to find his way?

Healing from child abuse is a journey. Along with the freedom to choose healing, we choose a journey that like any other will be filled with byways, hills and valleys. At times the going is easy and we celebrate our successes with joy. At other times, the going is hard and we stumble, even collapse, under the weight of it. Then we may cry out in torment to whatever gods may be for us: Why me? Why struggle? Why go on?

But at every step of the way we need to remember that any journey is a passage. From there to here, we do not make it alone. With every step along the way we are changed…and we change the world. Sometime we know where we have made a positive difference sometimes we
never know just how some little choice we make may make all the difference for another.

Yesterday I saw a little dog walking along the road…alone, lost and confused. It was later in the day, I was tired. A large part of me wanted to ignore her and her plight. But I made the harder choice and rescued her. No collar, no clue...I’d never seen her in the neighborhood. She was definitely a stranger in a strange land.

Which way to turn, to go to help her find her way home?

First things first, I thought as I picked her up and carried her to my house…give her water, food, and rest. She is so weary.

I understand weary...understand feeling lost, alone, hopeless. It is how I feel many times. I’ve been weary it seems since early childhood. A time filled with ongoing physical, emotional, sexual abuse and chronic neglect. Barely aware of death by age seven, I already sought death as my only escape from hell on earth. From my limited perspective on ways to kill myself, I plotted, schemed, planned and tried many ways but always some fear or something else, interfered. Swimming as far out into the ocean only to have the sea throw me back onto the shore, running to throw myself in front of a train but slipping on the rocks with my outstretched hands inches from the sparks that flew from the train, jumping into a canal known to kill children each year, running into traffic. My last attempt came when I was 15.

That night, I slashed my wrist twice with a razor blade as cold and steely as my determination to not fail again. Then, as blood shot everywhere, I lay down with my bible, at ease, prepared to die and sure that my God would welcome me home.

Anger flooded through me when I awoke. And searing pain. And quiet desperation. The mess was incredible…I had to get to my job as a car hop. No time to clean. Who would notice anyway? The wounds were bad… what to do? I ran to a friend’s house, her mother was a nurse. She cleaned and pulled the wounds together with tape to work as stitches, wrapped my wrist in gauze, found a wide Indian beaded bracelet to cover the bandage… gave me love and encouragement and sent me off to work.

As I walked along, head down, raging in anger at being alive, devastated that God didn’t let me escape to come home, instead of the weight of my life, I suddenly felt the warmth of the sun on my shoulders. I looked up to see a field filled with white daisies and thousands of white butterflies flitting among them. Their dew drenched yellow centers glistened like gold. Rainbows were everywhere through the tears that flowed as I heard, “My child, it is not yours to choose when to come home. That is for me to say. But you are not alone- I am with you always. Now promise you will continue on and not try such things again.” And I did. And I did not.

There is no fairy tale ending. The story that was my life went on. Fifty years later the scars on my wrist remain to remind me of that night.

My brother, sneaking in my room in search of cigarettes, panicked at the bloody mess and told my parents. When my father pulled into the parking lot, my heart stopped. I walked to his car. He grabbed the wounded wrist and twisted it, yanked off the bracelet to expose the bloody bandage, then slapped me across the face. “You bitch…what the hell kind of stupid shit is this…just wait ‘til you get home. I’ll fix your ass for embarrassing us."

So when the little dog was rested I made a leash and off we went…blindly going we knew not where but knowing doing something is better than doing nothing. The walk was pleasant and we met many nice people along the way. But no one knew her. When she could go on no more, I carried her back and we rested. Then we drove around, stopping to ask everyone…do you know her, she’s lost and wants to go home. Then finally, once again, walking around, enjoying the setting sun, and the cool summer evening. So many people! So many smiles! Where have you come from little one, and where are you going?

Finally it was too late to continue. Her eyes beseeched me but she settled down to watch the door. Tomorrow, Love, tomorrow we will find your home…I promise.

Well the dog story does have a happy ending…
Nearly midnight I awoke to a pounding on my door. A family desperately seeking to find her had given up and returned home. The mother called a friend to talk about their loss and futile search.
“OMG! You won’t believe this,” the friend said, “I was visiting a friend earlier, and she had a phone call from another friend, and while they were talking, a woman came by, walking a little white dog, saying she was lost! Maybe it’s your dog.”

“How could that be? It’s so far away from here? But we will try to find her anyway.”
And so they did.

And so you will find your way, and there will be help you never dreamed of, if you choose healing and just keep going…and someday fifty years hence, you may even look at your scars and say…after all is said and done, Life is Good. Thank You God!

And please now let me say, although the words may sound trite and over used…as you choose healing, and go through the valleys, along the byways, over the seemingly endless hills...Enjoy your Journey!

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bullies Made Not Born? Child Abuse a Cause? A Result?

Evil becomes the incapacity
That is forced on one by his lack of training.
Bryan Short, 1997

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

In my neighborhood new babies are celebrated, as they probably are in yours, and in so many other locations, with much ado and great fanfare. There is much anticipation and celebration before the birth. Friends and neighbors can’t do enough. Mother is feted with parties. Fathers strut and preen as proud peacocks do. Jubilation is everywhere in the air.

After the birth, beaming parents parade bright-eyed, trusting, innocent, eager-to-learn newborns around for all to see the precious additions to the community. The babies are all duly oohed, ahhed and awed over as the beautiful miracles they are conceived to be.

All too soon some of the babies are being referred to as demanding, spoiled, manipulating, brats-usually with colorful references to the other biological parent as the cause, whether said influence is in residence or not. Basic genetics at work? Babies born bad and soon to be meaner than junk yard dogs? So it would seem if one listens and believes.

By toddlerhood it looks like the bullies are in control of everything but them selves…brutally smacking and tormenting anything that doesn’t move out of the way fast enough…including smaller babies and bigger, cowering siblings, harried caretakers, and stunned strangers.

Watching this play out year after year, I wonder where each sweet, innocent, prized and precious baby went. Where did this little terrorizing tyrant come from? The answer is usually obvious to anyone who watches…and it has nothing to do with changelings and ghoulish goblins who “pushed their way in and pulled baby out, leaving another made of ice.” (Maurice Sendak)

Almost all relatives, and those living in the neighborhood, offer advice when the bullying characteristics appear…”you’d better beat the devil out of that one while you can or you’ll be sorry later!” And many will do their perceived neighborly duty. They will help by yelling and swatting the child at every opportunity. And there will be opportunities- many- as the bully-baby roams with little supervision and rampages at will.

Not yet verbal, he becomes an easy target for blame by anyone seeking to shift responsibility or attention… which increases the smacks, swats, and beatings…which increases the bullying behaviors…

The child learns…what he is taught…behind closed doors and in the open.

In time, the child learns new behaviors…learns to bully without witnesses-becomes adept at lying and manipulation…learns to bluster, browbeat, buffalo, bulldoze, coerce, dominate, lean on, lord over, menace, oppress, persecute, terrorize, threaten, torment, torture, traumatize and tyrannize.

And no one involved, who should have been watching, is ever willing to “…go outside over there to rescue her baby.” (Maurice Sendak)

Until…the child is dragged or pushed to a doctor, then drugged based on a caregiver’s description of the born-bad child and professional observation of a child obviously disruptive and lacking self-control.

The child, not yet grown, will teach as he has learned. Eventually, the child comes of age and will reproduce in his or her own image. Of that you can be sure.

But if the child is lucky, if you are lucky, if we all are lucky, perhaps there was one, who “never knowing, hugged the changeling and ... murmured: ‘How I love you’.”

And that one person...perhaps its you?... knowing love, and giving it, can make all the difference for the child born "good" who never would have been otherwise. Of that you also can rest assured.

Sendak, Maurice. Outside Over There. Harper & Row. 1981.



Please Stop Lauging at Me...One Womans' Inspirational Story
by Jodee Blanco
Please Stop Laughing at Us...One Survivor's Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying by Jodee Blanco

Less Empathy Toward Outsiders: Brain Differences Reinforce Preferences For Those In Same Social Group
“An observer feels more empathy for someone in pain when that person is in the same social group…”
Children Are Naturally Prone To Be Empathic And Moral
“The programming for empathy is something that is "hard-wired" into the brains of normal children…”
Bullies May Enjoy Seeing Others In Pain
“Unusually aggressive youth may actually enjoy inflicting pain on others…”

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just Can't Sugar-Coat Child Abuse

There is a moment of difficulty and danger at which
Flattery and falsehood can no longer deceive,
And simplicitiy itself can no longer be misled.

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

I'm wondering about sugar-coated worlds and the inequities of life.
The Duck and his siblings stopped by the neighbor's today. “Hey, how are you!” he yelled across the driveway that separated us, when he saw me sitting on the porch.
Big, friendly grin as usual. Everybody likes the Duck. You really can’t help it. He’s just that kind of guy…mostly.

“I didn’t waste no time on that fat-f-ing bitch this month. She can get somebody else to kiss her fat-f-ing ass, keep her fat-f-ing food. Who needs it anyway-stale rotten shit nobody else wants anyway-g-damned f-ing rip-off anyway.”

Contrary to what the language might suggest The Duck is the smartest in his family. He often says, with obvious beaming pride, “My Mom always said she didn’t raise no stupid a-holes.” And although eventually they lost the court case on the condemnation of the family home, after it was found to house 42 dogs chained to the walls and ceilings, adults, children and animals all living without water or electricity, amid deep layers of feces and urine everywhere, it was The Duck who appeared before the judge to refuse a public defender, completed all the necessary paperwork, presented their case to the court, spoke briefly on camera …and did it all without a verbal meltdown.

His brother, Grub, usually along as silent, sulking driver of the car The Duck managed to procure from the system in order to get to the job he quit after getting the car, mumbles, as I approach the car with bags of bakery goods from my morning stint at the pantry,
“All mother-f-ing crooks down there.”

The Duck snarls, “Shut up stupid a-hole. She works there but you don’t have to talk to her that way,” then flashes another charming grin my way.

That sets off the Grub even more. “You can’t tell me there’s any g-damned reason why one person gets as much food as a family of five. Bastards just gotta screw anybody any way they can. Should be fair-everybody gets something or nobody gets nothing-ain’t nothing ever f-ing fair around here.”

I make a mistake, a really big mistake and try to reason, attempt to explain, “Listen, you know we’re volunteers doing the best we can to get food to people who need it. There’s no way we can break the food down and distribute it on an individual basis…”

The rant turns instantly to full-volume rage as Grub sets out to educate me and set my mother f-ing stupid head straight. “It’s f-ing easy. Any stupid a-hole can rip open a package of hotdogs; put one in the bag for the family of one, and five in the bag for the family of five.”

As Grub’s tirade went on longer than that, his language more colorful than that,
I stared at the dirt encrusted, nail bitten hands choking the steering wheel glad they couldn’t reach me, and focused on listening. Not much else I could do.

When he took a break, without thinking, I yelled right back at him. “Knock it off Grub…I’m not here to listen to you scream at me. Take it somewhere else.”

Then I turned to slowly walk away, breathing deeply, listening for any sound to indicate the car door might open behind me. Not much else I could do.

Nothing but silence followed as I forced myself to walk slowly, softly-without any big stick, but momentarily wishing I had one- to my place. A long walk across a short distance.

“Thank You God,” I said, humbly and with even more gratitude than usual, as I slipped inside, quietly closed and locked the door behind me. Not much else I could do.

Everyone for towns around knows the family. “Sweetest kids you’d ever want to meet, they were. Nice manners, too” they’ll all tell you. “The Mom quiet as a mouse she was. The Dad always drunk and yelling but hell you can’t blame the kids for that. Kept to themselves mostly. But the kids… the kids just as sweet as could be. And that one…he was always smiling, always so helpful, always looking after the other kids. Still is, I hear.”

And that’s so true. The Duck is always smiling, always helpful, always the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. Except, of course, when he isn’t. Which is usually when he’s drunk but sometimes just when he’s had enough and doesn’t care to put on the show anymore.

And there’s the kids. The newest batch of them… sweetest kids you’ll ever meet. Which, of course, is why they were here. The neighbor, knowing they hadn’t come to the pantry this morning, knowing the kids would be thrilled to get the sweet treats, called them to come get the bakery goods along with other goods we scrounged together for them.

It really was crazy at the pantry this morning. We had enough ooey-gooey finger-licking baked goods and boxes of giant frosted sugar bakery cookies to bury the town in, or at least give it a sugar high for a week. Wondered why? Maybe it’s the recession? People not buying like they did, but supermarkets not adjusting to the new reality so having inordinate amounts of baked goods to waste or donate?

Whatever the reason, makes no difference- it was crazy this morning…no other word for it. Everyone received two full bags of the donuts-four boxes of the giant cookies-and a cake or other large bakery item…every household that is…no matter whether one member or five. No doubt Grub would have wanted us to divide them more equitably-make sure every one got his or her fair share, instead of making some call around town looking for those who didn’t get any to come take them off their hands.

Crazy-all crazy- as ignoring abused and neglected kids and not knowing the shadow cast over them lasts a lifetime, is crazy. Crazy –all crazy- as crazy as acting like those little ones so often smelling of urine and feces, with dirt encrusted nail-bitten, finger chewed hands, dried mucus smeared across smiling up-turned trusting faces, lots of dull matted hair but little shining hope will somehow grow up and see a world as ever fair? A world where everyone gets his or her fair share? And no one ever has no other choice than just to grin and do whatever it takes to bear the pain.

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Sunday, June 21, 2009

For Some, Every Day is Father's Day: Love Among the Ruins of Child Abuse

What silences we keep year after year
With those who are most near to us
And dear...
...Who knows the thoughts of a child?
Nora Perry

I'm wondering...what you are wondering about those who celebrate fathers and love.

In my neighborhood there are two little girls excited to celebrate Father’s Day. They chatter happily about the cards and gifts and special day they will have for him. No matter that their father screams, beats, neglects and curses them even as he threatens to kill anyone who tries to take them away from him. No matter that they crouch and cringe in fear when they aren’t running down the street yelling with joy, “Daddy’s home…Daddy’s home.”

No matter...for when he reaches for them their little faces crack like thin ice…fear splashes like cold water upon the warm flush of their hopeful faces as they struggle to read the signs with which they are so familiar. Will there be tussling bear hugs, sloppy kisses and affectionate tickles…or will his strong arm yank one close, big hand gripping hair as the other slaps the tiny upturned face. They know what goes on behind closed doors. He knows. Mother knows. Neighbors, teachers, doctors know.

The closed CPS records indicate “conflicted emotions” visible in children’s behaviors when father present, but no evidence of substantiated abuse exists. No matter…he is their father and they love him as only children can love a father.

Every day is father’s day in a home with an abusive father. Even now, 30 years after my own abusive father died, every day remains father’s day for not a day passes that something does not remind me of him. I’ve done the work, learned to forgive, to accept, to heal and to move on, but there is no forgetting. The shadows of abuse last a lifetime. The love and the hate that mingled in my child mind, as it mingles now in theirs, mingles still and always will, in the shadows at the back of my mind.

Ask me to reminisce about my father and I will tell you about a poor man who married his high school sweetheart, who proudly served his country in the Army Air Corp when I was born in 1943, who worked two menial jobs all his life, who cried as he waited to die for fear he’d lose the shack we called home, built with nails we helped pound straight enough to reuse on boards salvaged from a burned out torn down hotel, who taught us to ride bikes he built from rusty scraps, catch crabs to eat with nothing but a oft mended pole net and chicken wing on a knotted string, safely body surf in the ocean because there was no money to buy the canvas floats the other kids in town used. I will tell you of the fun of cooking hot dogs and melting marshmallows on a stick over the fire kettle in which we roasted aluminum foil wrapped potatoes buried in the coals as we burned the trash that didn’t go into the garbage pit. I will recall summers of laughing and running with him, catching fireflies in empty mayonnaise jars on summer nights too hot to sleep, pitching horseshoes around the railroad stake, playing badminton over the clothes line. In winter there were snowball fights, giant snowmen, and being pulled across town on a rickety sled held together with fraying rope to buy groceries at the little store that extended credit before credit cards became a way of life. There were hard times. There were good times. And I remember them all.

I remember the cursing, the screaming, and the ugly swollen red face as he swung the webbed Army belt he beat us with; the blunt force of the steel toed boots when he knocked us to the ground then kicked us around, the sharp sting of his hand across my face for any reason or none. I remember the hunger of the times with no food in the house for us but beer and pizza for them and their drunken friends after the bars closed. In the mornings my brothers and I picked cigarette butts ground in those pizza crusts so we could eat them on our way to school. There were times after walking home at lunchtime to find them still asleep and nothing to eat, we later returned after school even more hungry to find and fight over cold pork chop and steak bones left over from the meal they had eaten before they both left for work I remember too the cold…the god awful cold of the unheated shack in NJ winters, ice cold showers because we had no hot water heater, putting feet into frozen shoes in the morning.
All these things and more I remember that I wish I could forget. The sexual molestation of me and my friends by him and his friends. The horror of the time when a neighbor girl was raped and beaten so badly that although her body healed her mind never did, and the worst horror for me of thinking it was probably done by my father.

And always there was the mixture of love and hate, never to be resolved.

Even after wanting him to be the loving grandfather to my children, but having to grab him and threaten to kill him if he ever again laid a hand on my girls, even after I was married, after my mother died, and he grabbed me and forced me down on the bed, shoving his tongue in my mouth before I found the strength to fight him off as I’d never been able as a child…

...even then I got up, brushed myself off, and went on loving him. Went on loving him so that when word came that he had incurable cancer, I left my family to come and take care of him for the ten weeks of that dying.

And even then...and even then... I cried when he finally died.

And even now...and even now... every day I remember him, and sometimes still I cry.

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Voices Speak Out for Iranians Yearning to be Free: Same Voices for Victims of Child Abuse Remain Silent

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about?
Today I watched with mixed emotions as members of congress stood, one after another, in a true spirit of bipartisan representation, to speak out for the people of Iran. The prose was eloquent on behalf of the human rights of people there “yearning to be free from oppression and violence.” The rhetoric was emotional and forceful as they insisted they stand for all Americans who stand for any who “yearn for a voice and a better future.”

“The world is watching-the world is inspired” cried one with the fervor of the devout. “Even though this is an internal matter we should not be silent-we should send the message that we are with the people,” insisted another. Americans, people of “character, compassion and commitment,” always “condemn violence and suppression.” We stand for “universal values.” We must not be silent in the presence of ruthless, oppressive, dangerous dictators and their puppets who “stand by silent and confused” in the face of their shameful actions. On and on their voices droned, until the allotted time for speeches was entirely exhausted.

My sadness increased as their impassioned speeches continued because even though I was glad for them to speak on behalf of the Iranian people, I remembered another day recently when I watched in abject horror as a resolution was brought forward and no one but the two representatives of the parties spoke at all. Even they spoke briefly, and then, because there were no other speakers, they returned the rest of the allotted 20 minutes.

That day there were not any eloquent speeches about human rights, nothing about watching worlds being inspired to speak out to protect millions of victims of violence, oppression and suppression, no condemnation of the millions of internal matters - the ruthless in-home dictators and silent confused puppets standing silent and confused in the face of epidemic levels of abuse and neglect of children in the United States of America.

No, on that day when the House Resolution to declare April, National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month, only two of the 400+ members of the House of Representatives spoke at all. Where were they then, those representatives who could have raised their impassioned voices to Heaven with soaring rhetoric and utter determination on behalf of the 4-5 children tortured and killed daily in their own homes, the hundreds of thousands permanently disabled each year by abuse and neglect, the millions of victims reported and many more millions not reported?

When indeed will they end their silence and send the message that children are humans with certain inalienable rights, too? When will they stand for the children yearning for a voice and a better future? When will we be watching and inspired enough to really do something about child abuse?
Pence Introduces Iran Resolution
House Resolution
Expressing support for all Iranian citizens who struggle for
freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and the protection
of the rule of law.
HR337 National Child Abuse Prevention Month

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Survival of the Fittest is About Preservation- Child Abuse is Not

I have called this principal,
By which each slight variation,
If useful, is preserved,
By the term Natural Selection.
Charles Darwin

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

I'm wondering about abused and neglected children I've known. How are they? Did they make it to a safe place in life? What has become of them? About some, I know. About others I will probably never know. This much I know...sometimes I was there, like a shadow, protecting them for a little while in their journey.

And they still come like never ending streams flowing to the sea…and remind me of the pictures of the baby turtles fighting their way to the sea against all odds…no help…just each one for him or her self...alone among the masses. Most will not make it. Nature doesn’t seem to care. If enough are born, then enough will survive and carry on. Nature, it seems, asks no more.

This morning one comes through the cold rain, not yet awake, shivering, dressed inappropriately no doubt in clothes she slept in. The calendar says summer and so Sissy (9 going on 3) has dressed her self in summer clothes. She’s carrying a chicken patty that she eats like a starving person. I caution her to slow down so she doesn’t choke. Among other things she struggles with seizures. Soon her younger sister appears. Also cold, and she, too, is hungry. Since 11 of her abscessed teeth were recently surgically removed Boots (age 8) can’t eat much...certainly not frozen chicken patties. I cook her favorite…scrambled eggs…and give them both 100% juice.

They chatter about how cute the new baby down the block is. I met her several days ago…mottled with cold. She’s the first of this never-to-be wedded teen mother. Her neighbor, not yet 21 has 4 now. Thank you God! I thought when I learn she had her tubes tied with the latest one.

A young friend spent some time with me yesterday. Now nearly grown…at an age when I dread hearing from her, the words “I have something to tell you,” but not yet old enough to know the consequences of her choices says, “Guess what? My Mom wants to have another baby.”
I cringe and swallow. “OMG” I say…then ask “Why, Kats? Since she doesn’t take care of the rest of you?”

“Oh, she says she just loves babies soooooooo much…and can’t stand thinking about not having one around.” The youngest comes to mind…nearly 4, about to start Head Start, still nursing… few words to speak, but dark haunted eyes tell it all. Kats seems almost used to the nightly violence in their home, the visits by the police. Still, she tells me how she cries…not for herself, she reminds me, but for the little ones who can’t stop crying in their fear.

After school intervened over concerns about the possibility of suicide, Kats (14, abused, neglected and victim of sexual molestation by family members) received some therapy, but she no longer goes. ”Because,” she tells me, “Dad complained about the cost of gas, and Mom said it’s too much trouble to take me since she has to drag the ‘baby’ along.” “And you Kats,” I ask? “How are you doing, babe?”

“I’m fine,” Kats says, “You know I’m always fine.”

Now, with so little left to give, I give them all I can, these precious children that seek out those of us who do what we can, like the tiny abandoned turtles seek the sea. We, who can, offer some little bit of sanctuary from the violence, the weather, the fear that is their constant companion. We, who can, provide food from our own food-pantry-stocked pantries against the rules that say we cannot share. We scrounge clothes from free clothing pantries for who can afford thrift stores anymore now that those who had enough no longer do so and shop there? With increased business the prices have been raised beyond what we can pay. We give the children encouragement that sometimes seems like hollow lies even as we offer it. “Hang on babe-things will get better.” Really? Well, they need hope at least, don’t they?

Oh… and did I mention Love? We give them love along with everything else, and when there is nothing else? We give them Love.

Not much else we can do really when their needs are so great, but we help as we can. It isn’t the “Help” that comes from broken systems with assorted initials…CPS, DYS, DYFS, et al. It doesn’t matter what they are called from place to place around the world, they are underfunded, understaffed, swamped by paperwork, and, sadly, more and more moneys meant for the children are ripped off the top by privatization that takes much for the pockets of investors and gives little to those for whom it is intended... if it ever really is.

The children struggling to survive and grow are luckier than the baby turtles struggling to reach the sea, I suppose. Although even many of those defenseless young manage to reach the sea burdened by physical deformities and go on living with who knows what perspective on life? Who knows what becomes of them once out of sight? Who knows what becomes of these little children so out of sight?

And the ones who survive? In the US every day four or five or uncounted more abused and neglected children don’t survive. Of the millions abused each year, the ones who survive bring record crime, fill the profit-making prisons, and cost billions in direct and indirect costs.
Oh…and like the lost little turtles, they, too, the lost little children eventually go on to reproduce as Nature intends.

When Sissy and Boots leave I spend the rest of my time on the computer trying to wake up the people who do not see the way so many children live in this country where so many have so much more than anyone needs, but block every attempt to do more for these children who need so much just to survive lives that most cannot… or will not… even imagine.

Too much of the time lately, I wonder, why bother? There are so many and so little of me. What can one person do? But then they come through cold rains in summer, through icy winds in winter… and I remember.

So as I am writing, Sissy and Boots return to share with me some things given to them by the system yesterday at a Children’s Fair… colorful brochures about children’s health and safety… and such…given to the parents who can’t read, cheap lead laced trinkets given without regard to the health of the little children receiving them who will most certainly have them in their mouths, chewing and eating bits and pieces.

One slick and colorful brochure is about internet safety. I think about Pacer when she was 9, telling me how horrified she was to go on her Dad’s computer, typing in her sister’s name and seeing a “movie of lots of naked men doing nasty things to one girl.” These children live the stuff others write about.

A friend says… of don’t be so hard…they mean well…everyone is doing the best they know how. And I agree- most of them are, do care, do make as much difference as they can in whatever way they are able. I’ve known the teachers with food hidden in the bottom drawer, buying school supplies out of there salaries. I’ve known the social workers who cry for the children they see the system return to parents who may make the headlines in another week. I’ve seen the pain in the eyes of the police officers who have to walk away because he says, she says and if the children say anything, it’s a lie told in fear or to protect the only family they have.
So am I too hard to hope for more? Or maybe just too tired not to? Like the little turtle who struggles on, I cannot give up as long as the children don’t.

“Will we go for a walk today,” the children want to know. “Of course,” I say. What else can I do?
And you?

And they came again. I see that Sissy has been crying hard. I ask. Daddy punched me in the stomach. Boots gives her the look...the one that says "SH... don't tell!" I check her sign of injury. Hopefully, there is none unseen. Why not call the police? They may or may not bother to come to their house...too many times already. And CPS? Opens and closes files on them like a revolving door. Not nearly enough funding to cover the need. These children are on their own.

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Celebrating Child Abuse Survivors: Veterans of Wars on the Home Front

Heroes take journeys,
Confront dragons,
And discover
The treasure of their true selves.
~Carol Lynn Pearson~

Can't help wondering...

what you're wondering about?
I'm wondering about heroes-
who they are and what we choose to honor about them.
In this month of Memorial Day when we stop to honor those who so proudly serve this country at home and abroad, those whose lives are cut short in battles, those permanently wounded in fights, forever scarred by the horrors of war, I am reminded of other victims of another kind that share similar experiences, but for whom we have no holidays during which to acknowledge and honor them.

These veterans, too, fight for survival against incredible odds. Those who survive, too, bear the scars of those battles for a lifetime. As with the soldiers at war, these veterans, too, pass through stages of grief, stages of recovery and stages of adjustment to living with the outcomes of their experiences. As with the soldiers we honor each May, they will never again be whatever they were or might have been had they not endured their battles.

I speak of the victims of child abuse, the survivors of child abuse, the veterans of child abuse. I speak of those unsung heroes who even while being victimized themselves often fought fearlessly for the health and safety of those around them. Many survive physical, emotional, and psychological wounds that none who have not walked in their shoes will ever understand. And I speak of the wounded warriors who carry on forevermore, selflessly giving of whatever remains that will be of benefit to others.

Like the veterans of foreign wars, veterans of home front wars may suffer from “anxiety, conduct disorder…aggression, depression, increased risk for suicide, high-risk sexual behavior, interpersonal problems, poor physical health, posttraumatic stress disorder, risky health behaviors, substance abuse, and …violence.” They may struggle with medical, economic, legal, consequences. Prevention, identification and intervention of escalating problems resulting from their experiences may be inadequate or unavailable.

As with the veterans of foreign wars, many of these veterans of home front wars suffer their visceral pains in silence, unable to speak of shameful acts committed against them, or shameful acts they committed as a result of events we can barely imagine and prefer to ignore. Help may be unavailable, or shame may prevent some from seeking it. The safety, stability and nurturance so necessary for healing may be lacking in their lives.

As a result of their painful experiences many child abuse survivors, like returning wounded warriors of foreign wars, will be at risk of perpetrating violence on others. Given a “complex interplay between individual, relationship, community, and societal factors”at least one third of them will do so without outside intervention and protection against becoming perpetrators of violence they abhor to the depths and breadth of their wounded souls.

As we recognize the changed behaviors of the veterans of foreign wars resulting from their battle injuries, and honor them by providing necessary treatment and supports, while not condoning, but holding them responsible for their action, so it is time we become aware of this other side of child abuse and honor those survivors in much the same ways.

By doing so we do two very important things. First we stop blaming the victims of child abuse for the results of the damage inflicted upon them. Second, because violence begets violence, and child abuse begets more of the same, we increase the odds of less child abuse in the future. And that, I believe, is a goal we can all agree is one worth fighting for.

So, this May, while taking time to honor those military casualties and veterans of foreign wars, let’s take a moment to remember those who died in home front wars and to honor those who survived. Let’s, too, salute and celebrate those battle-scarred veterans of all wars who continue on in their own personal battles against the ravages of violence they never asked for and certainly didn’t deserve – worthy victims, combatants, survivors, heroes, wounded warriors, conquerors and exemplars all.

Today is the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse. Be sure to check Thriver's list of other great blogs submitted:

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Monday, May 18, 2009

Be a Voice for Taylor and Other Children Abused by the System

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about? I'm wondering what it takes to have someone listen... really listen... and stop playing games where only children pay the price?

For more about Taylor's story:

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wudda, cudda, shudda, pulled-from-odd-places stuff - or Facts and Accurate Information about Child Maltreatment?

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

I'm wondering how much progress we can reasonably expect to see in reduction of child abuse when there is so much ignorance about it by so many who really need to know the truth? I.E. those primary caregivers statistically most likely to inflict abuse on the children in their care.

In spite of so many dedicated and concerned people attempting to share information- facts, informed opinions, and shared experiences through every available medium in sincere efforts to make a positive difference for children- there is still an abundance of shudda, wudda, cudda made-up off-the-cuff and pulled-from-u-no-where stuff about child abuse in such abundant supply that it is not surprising how many myths, misconceptions, misunderstandings, deceptions and outright lies surface about child abuse. Sadly they are the loudest and most voracious...their vitriolic noise often drowns out more reasonable voices in attempts to open discussions about child abuse in open forums.

So... today, for a change, I am pasting a lot of words from another source to make accessing them easier. The CDC definitions offered here seem specific, clear, concise and understandable to anyone. Unlike the federal and state definitions they don't allow a lot of room for playing verbal games.

The following is from : For readability I put headings in bold but all else is as in the CDC document which can be downloaded at the URL.

For the purposes of this document the following are irrelevant to determining whether child maltreatment has occurred:
• Caregiver’s intent to harm the child.
• Caregiver’s legal liability for the maltreatment.
• Caregiver’s economic means.
• Caregiver’s religious or cultural norms.
For the purposes of this document and based on the general child maltreatment literature, a child is defined as anyone younger than 18 years of age—regardless of state

Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is defined as the intentional use of physical force against a child that results in, or has the potential to result in, physical injury.
Physical abuse includes physical acts ranging from those which do not leave a physical mark on the child to physical acts which cause permanent disability, disfigurement, or death (Barnett, Manly, and Cicchetti 1993). Physical abuse can result from discipline or physical punishment (ACF 2002).
Physical acts can include hitting, kicking, punching, beating, stabbing, biting, pushing, shoving, throwing, pulling, dragging, dropping, shaking, strangling/choking, smothering, burning, scalding, and poisoning.

Physical injuries to the anal or genital area or surrounding areas (e.g., anal or genital bruising or tearing; internal injuries resulting from penetration by a penis, hand, finger, or other object) that occur during attempted or completed sexual abuse, or other physical injuries that result from attempted or completed sexual abuse (e.g., bruises due to restraint, hitting, pushing) are considered sexual abuse and do not constitute physical abuse.

Sexual Abuse
Any completed or attempted (non-completed) sexual act, sexual contact with, or exploitation (i.e., noncontact sexual interaction) of a child by a caregiver.

Sexual Act
Sexual acts include contact involving penetration, however slight, between the mouth, penis, vulva, or anus of the child and another individual. Sexual acts also include penetration, however slight, of the anal or genital opening by a hand, finger, or other object (Basile and Saltzman 2002).
Genital on genital contact includes:
• Penis to vulva
• Penis to anus
• Penis to penis
Mouth on genital contact includes:
• Mouth to penis
• Mouth to anus
• Mouth to vulvalaw stating otherwise. Users of this document may choose a lower or higher age threshold based on the legal definition of minor in their jurisdiction.
Sexual acts can be performed by the caregiver on the child or by the child on the caregiver. A caregiver can also force or coerce a child to commit a sexual act on another individual (child or adult).

Abusive Sexual Contact
Abusive sexual contact includes intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the following:
• Genitalia (penis or vulva)
• Anus
• Groin
• Breast
• Inner thigh
• Buttocks
Abusive sexual contact does not involve penetration of any of the above.
Abusive sexual contact can be performed by the caregiver on the child or by the child on the caregiver. Abusive sexual contact can also occur between the child and another individual (adult or child) through force or coercion by a caregiver. Abusive sexual contact does not include touching required for the normal care or attention to the child’s daily needs.

Noncontact Sexual Abuse
Noncontact sexual abuse does not include physical contact of a sexual nature between the caregiver and the child.
Noncontact sexual abuse can include the following:
1. Acts which expose a child to sexual activity (e.g., pornography; voyeurism of the child by an
adult; intentional exposure of a child to exhibitionism);
2. Filming10 of a child in a sexual manner (e.g., depiction, either photographic or cinematic, of a child in a sexual act);
3. Sexual harassment of a child (e.g., quid pro quo; creating a hostile environment because of comments or attention of a sexual nature by a caregiver to a child);
4. Prostitution of a child (e.g., employing, using, persuading, inducing, enticing, encouraging, allowing, or permitting a child to engage in or assist any other person to engage in,
prostitution11, or sexual trafficking. Sexual trafficking is defined as the act of transporting children across international borders through deception for forced sexual activity such as
prostitution or sexual slavery (Miller and Jayasundara 2001).

Psychological Abuse
Intentional caregiver behavior (i.e., act of commission) that conveys to a child that he/she is worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or valued only in meeting another’s needs12. Psychological abuse can be continual (e.g., chronic and pervasive) or episodic (e.g., triggered by a specific context or situation: caregiver substance use/abuse) (Kairys and Johnson 2002).
Psychologically abusive behaviors may include blaming, belittling, degrading, intimidating, terrorizing, isolating, restraining, confining, corrupting, exploiting, spurning, or otherwise behaving in a manner that is harmful, potentially harmful, or insensitive to the child’s developmental needs, or can potentially damage the child psychologically or emotionally (Barnett, Manly, and Cicchetti 1991; McGee and
Wolfe 1991a, b).
Terrorizing includes caregiver behavior that is life-threatening; makes a child feel unsafe (e.g., situations that are likely to physically hurt, kill, or abandon the child) (Myers et al. 2002); sets unrealistic expectations of the child with threat of loss, harm, or danger if expectations are not met; and threatens or perpetrates violence against a child or a child’s loved ones or objects (including toys, pets, or other possessions) (Kairys and Johnson 2002). For example, placing a child in unpredictable or chaotic circumstances would be considered terrorizing as would be placing a child in a situation reasonably considered dangerous by either the child or another adult.
Psychological isolation occurs when a caregiver forbids, prevents, or minimizes a child’s contact with others.


Failure to Provide (Barnett, Manly, and Cicchetti 1993)
Failure by a caregiver to meet a child’s basic physical, emotional, medical/dental, or educational needs—or combination thereof. Failure to provide includes the following:

Physical Neglect
Caregiver fails to provide adequate nutrition, hygiene, or shelter; or, caregiver fails to provide clothing that is adequately clean, appropriate size, or adequate for the weather. Several examples follow (Barnett, Manly, and Cicchetti 1993):
Nutrition: A 9-year-old child makes dinner several times per week because the caregiver(s) are sleeping, away, or otherwise unavailable; a child misses or is denied meals on numerous occasions over time; a child is diagnosed as being severely malnourished.
Hygiene: Child is dirty, smells bad, or has unwashed hair. Child’s living situation is unsanitary; dirty dishes and spoiled food are left on the kitchen table and counter.
• Shelter: Living arrangements for the child and family are unstable for two weeks or more; the residence is infested with roaches or vermin; residence in unheated or inadequately heated because caregivers have failed to ensure heat available.
Clothing: The child always wears clothing that is too small; the child is not given a warm coat and gloves when the weather is cold.

Emotional Neglect
Caregiver ignores the child, or denies emotional responsiveness or adequate access to mental health care (e.g., caregiver does not respond to infant cries or older child’s attempt to interact) (Barnett, Manly, and Cicchetti 1993).

Medical/Dental Neglect
Caregiver fails to provide adequate access to medical, vision, or dental care for the child. Examples include the following:
• Caregiver does not administer prescribed medications;
• Caregiver refuses to take the child for needed medical attention or seek timely medical attention (Barnett, Manly, and Cicchetti 1993).

Educational Neglect
Caregiver fails to provide access to adequate education. Examples include:
• Caregiver allows child to miss 25 or more school days in one academic year without excuse;
• Caregiver does not enroll the child in school; caregiver encourages a child (under 16 years of age) to drop out of school (Barnett, Manly, and Cicchetti 1993). 18

Failure to Supervise
Failure by the caregiver to ensure a child’s safety within and outside the home given the child’s emotional and developmental needs (Barnett, Manly, and Cicchetti 1993).

Inadequate Supervision
Failure by the caregiver to ensure that the child engages in safe activities and uses appropriate safety devices; to ensure that the child is not exposed to unnecessary hazards; or to ensure appropriate supervision by an adequate substitute caregiver (Barnett, Manly, and Cicchetti 1993).

Inadequate supervision (sometimescalled “supervisional neglect ”) includes occasions when a caregiver knowingly fails to protect a child from maltreatment perpetrated by a substitute caregiver. Under such conditions, the primary caregiver’s behavior would be considered neglectful only if the maltreatment was recognized and allowed to occur. Regardless of the primary caregiver’s knowledge of the maltreatment, the substitute caregiver’s behavior would be considered maltreatment.

Exposure to Violent Environments
Caregiver intentionally13 fails to take available measures to protect the child from pervasive violence within the home, neighborhood, or community (Kairys and Johnson 2002). For example, a caregiver who sells illicit drugs out of the child’s home exposes the child to a violent environment; or, a school bus driver (temporary caregiver) who allows a student to be routinely victimized by another student while riding the bus without taking steps to intervene (e.g., notifying school administrators) also exposes a child to a violent environment.

Exposure of a child to violence between caregivers in the home may also qualify as exposure to a violent environment, particularly if the caregivers do not take available measures to protect the child from exposure. But, in instances where the caregiver is being victimized by a partner, and alternatives to protect the child are not available, or the caregiver is unaware of alternatives, the caregiver is not maltreating the child.
Multiple forms of maltreatment often coexist, as described in these examples:
• Police find a 20-month-old child with bruises on extremities, cigarette burns to the forehead and upper chest, and signs of dehydration. The child was at home with the male caregiver who was high on opium. In this instance, physical abuse, failure to provide (adequate nutrition), failure to protect
(caregiver is under the influence of drugs and unable to care for the child), and psychological abuse have occurred.
• Paramedics find a two-and-a-half-year-old child. The undressed child was walking outside in the winter and had belt-patterned bruises on the legs and trunk. The child also had ethyl alcohol in his blood system. In this example, physical abuse, failure to provide (adequate clothing), and failure to protect (unaccompanied child) have occurred.
• Upon reading a school report card, the caregiver/parent slaps the child’s face, withholds food, and berates the child’s ability until “better marks” are produced. In this scenario, physical abuse, failure to provide, and psychological abuse have occurred.

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Baby it's cold why are you in shorts and tee-shirt?

Cannot the heart in the midst of crowds

Feel frightfully alone?

Charles Lamb

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

I'm wondering about common neglect of those too young to take care of even their most basic needs. I'm wondering about where we draw the line and call any such neglect child abuse? Outdoors this morning, it was raining and 45 degrees. Inside the store was cold, too, for some reason. The toddler girl, hunched in the basket seat, visibly shivered in her shorts and tee-shirt. She hugged herself and cried piteously. Her little arms were mottled blue as though she’d been cold a while. Nearby, Daddy read a package, and ignored her.

“Ah, baby is cold, Daddy,” I said, while smiling at the little girl. He didn’t even look at her, just said “Nah, she’s tired. That’s all.”
“Ah, cold and tired baby… not a happy way to be is it sweetie? Well hopefully Daddy will hurry and get you dressed warm and let you sleep soon.”
She looked at me with big tear filled eyes. When I reached the end of the aisle and looked back, Dad was still reading labels. The little girl still looked at me.

I wanted to wrap her in my jacket, hold her close to warm her little body, but knew that would not help the situation and might only cause her trouble for crying and attracting attention to her plight. I could only hope he would finish his shopping soon, put her safely in her car seat, turn the heater on, and once home, dress her appropriately. Hope. So little to offer. So little to do. So sad to know how many millions are faring no better.

Was he a mean, uncaring, blatantly overtly chronically neglectful Daddy? Not necessarily. Possibly, and hopefully, he was just a situationally self-centered neglectfully unaware Daddy. But in either case, an obviously suffering child was being ignored by the one person who could do something for her. Her basic physical and emotional needs were clearly not being met. The fact that she was not howling her distress and demanding his attention is not a good sign. She showed no expectation of help as is frequently the case with neglected children. They learn early that no one listens, no one cares.
The following is from American of my favorite child protection organizations.
“Chronic Neglect
Chronic neglect of children is one of the most persistent and intractable challenges facing the nation’s child welfare system. The term “chronic neglect” refers to an enduring pattern in which a child’s basic physical, developmental and/or socio-emotional needs are repeatedly unmet by the child’s parent or caregiver. Research indicates that chronic neglect is manifested in different ways (e.g., physical, emotional, medical, educational) at different times; that is, children experience various omissions of their basic needs over an extended period of time. Research and day-to-day child welfare practice suggest that traditional short-term or incident-based services are not effective interventions for these families. Moreover, there is limited focus on prevention for the children and caregivers impacted by chronic neglect. Yet children who are repeatedly deprived of fundamental needs can experience serious consequences, including delays in neurobiological development, physical and mental illness, cognitive and educational deficiencies, and socio-emotional and behavioral challenges.”

In the story at this link, neglect is obvious...and yet there are those who will make excuses for it happening, too.

Perhaps making excuses for any of it needs to stop and more training and accountability needs to be expected of those who have children?
A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Street Children: Not Made in USA Only

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

Allen Clelland-Goddard from Trinidad and Tobaggo looks like an angel, sings like one too...but his message is anything besides sweet and childlike.

Street children worldwide grow in numbers daily. The current economic crisis is bound to escalate an already horrible global crisis for children everywhere.

Just because they have always been a part of civilization is no excuse to continue to ignore their plight. Look around where you many do you see?

Now the real question is: How many are there in your town that you don't see?

And the next question is: What will you do to make a difference for them?

If not you...then who...if not now, then when?

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Run and Rally to Stop Child Sexual Abuse: Change is Possible

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

People can change...people do change.

We don't have to continue to abuse or facilitate the abuse of our children by our choices and denials.

But the first step towards change is acknowledging the problem exists and is serious almost beyond belief.

When the person most likely to be sexually abused is a 4 year old child in his or her home, it is way past time to wake up and stop the abuse.

Listen to the alarm. The wake-up call could be in your own home.

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I Call That Love...or is it Child Abuse?

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

During this month of Child Abuse Prevention Awareness I wonder even more than usual about child abuse.

Today, I'm wondering about Love and Child Abuse...

They call it love… and they mean it.

They call it love when the child is sick and they take him to the emergency room, and then go with him to Wal-Mart to shop while the prescription is being filled.

They call it love when the medication sits untaken because the child doesn’t like to take medicine and they don’t want to make him take it.

They call it love when they add sugar to the baby food to make it taste better.

They call it love when they let the child stay up at night until she wants to go to bed or falls asleep in front of the TV.

They call it love when they wash the child’s mouth with soap for having a trash mouth, using words the child learned from them and their friends.

They call it love when they slap a child in the face for saying no, no matter what the circumstances…because a child needs to learn to respect his parents.

They call it love when they spank a toddler to teach her to not touch hot things…sharp things…dangerous things…for her own good.

They call it love when they use a belt on a child to teach him not to lie to them because lying is bad ….and heaven help the child who says, well how come it’s not bad when you lie. Then they call it love when they knock the child to the ground to teach her not to use a fresh mouth with them.

They call it love when they burn a child with a lit cigarette or match to teach him not to touch hot things.

They call it love when they bite a child to teach her that it is wrong to bite. They call it love when they punish a child by sending him to bed without supper…. for begging for food from the neighbors and embarrassing them.

They call it love when they teach her no manners because it is such a drag to keep nagging and who cares anyway because nobody likes anyone who goes around putting on airs.

They call it love when they let children spend days and nights in the same clothes… because they are favorites.

They call it love when the child eats nothing but chicken nuggets for months because that is what he likes.

They call it love when they don’t make a child do homework because they hated school, too.

They call it love when they blame the teacher for not teaching, the neighbor for not understanding, the relative for just being jealous of their kids special qualities and making a fuss about little things…cause kids will be kids, boys will be boys…

They call it love when there are no rules, no expectations, nor requirements….because they hated it when adults were always bossing them around when they were kids so they sure as hell aren’t going to do it to their kids.

They call it love when they don’t make a kid brush his teeth because he doesn’t want to, don’t take him to a dentist because he doesn’t want to go, and they call it interference when a school nurse reports that the child has a mouth full of abscessed teeth.But they call it love when they go to have the 11 teeth surgically removed even though it's silly to have baby teeth removed.

They call it love when they take the children to the bars while they drink because only bad parents leave their children home alone while they go out drinking… or they call it love when they leave the children home alone while they go drinking because bars are no place for children to be.

And so forth and so on… and always they call it love.

I call it child abuse.

But I believe them when they call it love because those are the only things they’ve ever known.

And so I do all that I can to raise awareness in the hopes that one day one of them will say OMG what am I doing and how can I make a change…so that their children’s lives can end up being a little better…so that their grandchildren can have some greater chance of knowing that love can be something more than what they knew and called love because they never knew any better.
I call that love.

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Waiting for Rainbows: On the Sexual Assault of Children

Birds Fly Over the Rainbow...

Why - Oh Why - Can't I?

Do you ever wonder or worry about the possible risk to you or your loved ones of being a victim of sexual assault? I suspect if you do, you think more of the risk to a college student than to a pre-school student.
And yet, at this moment, the most likely person to be sexually assaulted is a four year old child in his or her own home.
For most of us, it hurts to think about rape and 4 year olds in the same time and place. We'd rather think of just about anything else. But it's time we do think about about it...find something we can do about it. Not doing so hurts them more than they are already being hurt. That's a fact. There are other facts that need to be brought into the open about the sexual assault of children before the day can come when children will be safe in the place they should be their own homes.
Over 67% of all reported sexual assaults are committed against juveniles...children under 18.
One of every 7 reported cases involves a child under 6.
The risk of being the victim of forced sodomy peaks at age 4.
The risk of being sexually assaulted with an object peaks at age 3 & 4.
The risk of forcible fondling, the other high volume sex assault offense along with forcible rape, first peaked at age 4.
Other related statistics contribute to the bigger picture of sexual assaults.
1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime.
Approximately 73% of rape victims know their assailants.
60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
Reporting has increased by 1/3 since 1993.
60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
Reporting has increased by 1/3 since 1993.
But I admit the following fact is one of the most disturbing to me, because it tells us what we don't want to acknowledge.
Only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail.
Sexual Assaults are crimes. They destroy people's lives and yet, apparently, as a culture, we do not consider the crime worth acknowledging...worth punishing...or worth doing much of anything about. We don't protect the children, we don't punish the perpetrators, and we don't do whatever necessary to break the cycle that continues generation after generation. But this message isn't about sending perpetrators to jail... there is no correction or solution to this problem in that option. No, this post isn't about the perpetrators at all. This is about, and for, the children who are victims and the survivors still struggling to escape their silent storms. They deserve to find a rainbow waiting somewhere...a promise for a better tomorrow.
But when?
This isn't new information to me, yet I am as guilty as others about preferring to ignore this crime being committed against children, even as I devote decades to learning about it and other forms of child abuse.
But why?
Do we think it is okayfor children to be sexually assaulted? Do we think if we don't acknowledge this epidemic in our culture it will somehow disappear? Not a week goes by that there isn't a story on the local news about another child being sexually assaulted... last week here, one was a 3 month old baby, and the other a 2 year old toddler girl. Is this area somehow worse than others? Or is this happening in every town across America, on the local news along with the usual lineup of fires and auto accidents and crooked politicians... just another routine bit of news to ignore? Just something that happens in those other families, those other houses, those other lives? None of our business? It is as though there is a flashing red "WARNING! Bystander intervention is actively discouraged" sign everywhere we turn. There is no purpose in pointing fingers and casting blame at systems that fail our children. They are but a reflection of what we as a culture expect of them.
"Ours is a culture that allows sexual assault to flourish," said David Lee, of CALCASA, on a recent broadcast.
Ours is a culture that apparently prefers to "ignore, encourage, deny, condone...and minimize responsibility of people to do anything about it" added John Foubert, of One in Four, on the same show.
Ours as a culture apparently prefers to expect the victims to remain behind closed doors, keeping our shame in their dark places, silently singing of an unlikely escape over a rainbow, while we walk on singing songs of happy little blue birds in the sunshine.
Andrew Vachss relates that "A friend asked me if child abuse was increasing. I said the question he should ask is, "Who cares?" because obviously few do.
But some do...and that's a beginning.
Fortunately more and more have had enough, more and more are speaking out, more and more are determined to create a change.
But who among us wants to tell the children... keep on singing...we'll get there someday...hopefully before you find a way through death or drugs to fly away over that rainbow.
Do you?
An Andrew Vachhs article from 2004, is still worth reading. In it, he asks,
"What are you going to do about child abuse?"
Indeed... what are we going to do about child abuse?
I wonder...
And as I wonder, the young child in the back of my mind remembers. She still sings "why-oh why-can't I," louder, faster and harder, as she did then, hiding in a wood, swinging faster, harder and higher, hoping that going faster, harder, higher while desperately clinging to that knotted rope, somehow, some way, some day, some how she would find the way to fly over the rainbow and escape the sexual abuse of her life.

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Hotline

A Few Reference Links: