36 – child abuse
I’m skipping my regular cryptic title because we can’t afford misunderstandings here. I often wonder if Kim Jong Un was abused as a child. Statistics show that many of the “bully” types I mentioned in plebeius have suffered abuse themselves at some point. But I’m not going to waste time with statistics now – they can be bent any direction.
Through my career I have represented a child rendered a vegetable by his parents’ shaking him, a father who “disciplined” his daughter by cutting her with razor blades, a mother who fed her infant methamphetamine to see what would happen, a young school boy who was left at a truck stop by his parents – never to be picked up or taken back by them again, a baby who was born to her father and her sister in a family where incest was an accepted way of life, a school girl who became accustomed to being sexually tortured in a cave as a religious act, and countless other cases that I have blocked out.
I have had the pleasure of stopping a school bus on the street with a court order to remove a child before she went home to her abuser again and I have enjoyed, with court permission, making a grown man lie on the floor of the courtroom while a bigger man stood over him with a stick, to demonstrate the position of abuse and give the abuser the slightest taste of the helplessness that comes with it. I have cried with the abused in early years, and I have found myself without tears to shed because of a calloused heart in later years.
I have watched more than one generation of the same family come through the court system, with the same problems. Because people parent as they were parented, even when they try not to do so.
This type of law practice was and is the type I care most about. My passion, you might say. My journal from 2009 shows that after practicing in this field for about 15 years, I ran for juvenile judge and lost, and then realized that this practice was so emotionally draining that I wasn’t able to help my own sons when they needed me. So I pulled out and took a job as a prosecutor. I was still doing some child maltreatment work, but not all day every day like before. After that I came into my present position as County Civil Attorney.
I still work with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) regularly, and if I can ever find another job helping abused kids that will pay enough to support my family, I will take it. I write all this now because my journal reflects that in January of 2010 I was attending a conference in Santa Fe on Investigating & Prosecuting Child Fatalities and Abuse. It is good to have a job where you know you are making the world a better place, and that’s what I did then.
That type of works takes a heavy toll on the people engaged in it, as it did me, but those cases take a much heavier toll on the victims. A reporter once asked me if the conviction of a dad who molested his children brought “closure” to the family. I carefully explained that as far as I could tell, “closure” is a myth. Recovery from these situations progresses like a nuclear half-life at best. It gets smaller and smaller with time, but it never completely disappears.
With that said, if this strikes a chord with you as a reader, look into volunteering for your local CASA. You can work cases directly with children, help with events, be on a Board, or simply donate money or assets. Everything is needed and appreciated.
Somewhere, right now, as you read this, there is a child who has been abused or neglected in his own home by the only parents he has ever known. She may be, like another old client of mine, sitting in her closet, on the phone with a cop or just a friend, hiding while Mom’s abusive, drunk boyfriend stomps through the house screaming and looking for her with a belt in his hand.
The child doesn’t necessarily understand that it is even wrong if this is all she has known, like the child in the incest family. When a teacher, doctor, or friend discovers the problem, the child is further traumatized by being removed from the familiar though painful home to be placed in a “safe” home full of absolute strangers. He stays there, or is moved from one foster home (and therefore school) to another, while his parents work out their issues with the court system. Sometimes the child goes home to rehabilitated parents, and sometimes that never happens. In the case of my friend who was left at the truck stop, he saw his parents in court but they made it clear they did not want him back. Imagine growing up knowing that your parents specifically chose not to love you, and then being shuffled through foster homes for all of your childhood, because some consider some children “unadoptable.” I won’t address what all is wrong with this word.
I encourage you to look into how you can help, and I’ve just reminded myself again of my own calling. Thanks for reading all the way through this.