Keep Speaking Out!
(first appeared in the Ellsworth American, June 1996)
Everywhere we look, we see newspaper stories or segments on
the local news program about incidents of child abuse. Yet child abuse continues
to happen. Why does it continue? How can we get it to stop? Both of these questions
are huge, but they do have answers! The answers are painful, however.
Locally, we had the Ardolino trial (a little boy was brutally
killed by his father). Dr. Steven Dunton, pathologist and pediatrician, testified
for the defense. He stated that a 9-year-old child is strong enough and quick
enough to elude a person who would repeatedly beat him. Dr. Dunton, a “supposed”
expert, is a wonderful example of what allows child abuse to continue- the complete
lack of empathy and understanding of the plight of children everywhere. .
Children, when faced with someone violent, powerful, and larger
than they are, will often become compliant. They will not even fight back during
the abuse. The abuse is over quicker, and the abuser most certainly will not
allow the least bit of defiance on the child’s part. You see, it is the power
to say “No!” that the abuser is trying to destroy. The ability to
say “No!” is a child’s vitality. With it, he can learn to protect
himself, and later, others. With it, he can learn to tell on his abuser, and
later, he will have the power to confront other abusers. With it he can recognize
that it is the actions of the abuser that are bad, and not himself. Later, he
can recognize abuse when he sees it, even though others may not. I understand
this in a way that one cannot from books. I was that child, I have remembered
how I felt, and I can now say “No!” again.
The answer to the first question (why does it continue?) is
that often, our family histories keep us from seeing and responding to abuse
that is right in front of us. We minimize the impact on the child, because to
recognize his agony, would be to recognize our own, from when we were children.
To continue to feel that as children would have been too much. We repress it,
putting it on the backburner of our unconscious, until we have a safe enough,
and supportive enough environment. Many of us remember beatings, without remembering
their true agony. We walk around feeling like something is missing, never truly
enjoying life, lives of quiet desperation. What is missing is our power, our
vitality, that ability to say “No!”. We see today’s world through
the “filter” of our past. This “filter” is called denial.
We are indoctrinated by other people’s denial, as we grow up. We come from a
society, which has in the past, been built with denial. That, at least, has
changed some, (I emphasize the word some!). To sum up the answer to the first
question: abuse continues because we are not willing to face our own pain. .
The answer to the second question (how do we stop abuse?) is
frustrating and elusive. Abusing, and nonabusing adults must confront their
pasts and heal the pain they carry. Unfortunately, denial keeps them unaware
that they even carry that pain from the past. Many, having confronted some of
that pain, have not yet reclaimed their power- that ability to say “No!”.
But many have, and still more will. We are taking baby steps now, we will take
giant steps as time goes on! There is a quiet revolution going on, and it will
succeed! Its weapons are honesty, openness, empathy, mutual respect, and a sense
of community. Slowly the tide will turn. In the meantime, we must keep speaking
1996 Ken S.
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