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