Let us talk about child abuse for a minute. This subject is easy for me and just about everyone that grew up in my area and era. White, Black, French, English, rich, or poor we all got abused in one fashion, or another.
I suffered mental and emotional abuse, as well as physical and sexual abuse and learned to just talk to my friends and suffer in silence. When we talked we thought that it was all right, because it was happening to all of us and no one did anything about it.
Verbal Abuse and Mental Cruelty
In my school there was verbal abuse for those not learning fast enough. In my school there was a class set up for students with learning disabilities. This class was directly in the middle of the school. Once in this class there was no getting out. Formal education was over and home economics, woodworking, adding and subtraction and remedial reading became your day. At a certain age you were encouraged to take a trade, or go to work, but not to waste your time in what was consider the main stream of education. At least two times a day these students were paraded through the school for all to see. My teachers took the time to stop their lessons and point to the students and say, “This could be you and is where you will end up if you do not apply yourself.” Does not sound too bad to you. Well what if I was to tell you that most of the children were there because they had behavioral problems and not learning problems and that these decisions to put them in this class were done at the sole discretion of the school and teachers? This practice was a punishment not a chance to improve and this is what they held over every other student in the school.
At home the attitude was to make one look stupid and feel stupid in front of your siblings in the hope I am guessing, that your siblings would see what was happening to you and choose not to go there, or that you might get tired of looking and feeling stupid and work harder to improve your lot.
There was the strap a form of corporal punishment used by the school. Lashes with the strap were applied to the open palm of a student usually by a male teacher. Usually one to ten lashes on each hand, or untill you were reduced to a bawling broken child. There were contests and a certain pride taken amongst male teachers to be feared the most. They invented new techniques to strapping to get better screams like strapping on the back of the hands instead of the palm.
I have witnessed children running down the street with parents in hot pursuit brandishing anything from belts to baseball bats while the police and the other adults did nothing to help the child. I have seen and felt the sting and the horror a child feels from over zealous angry beatings from a parent, or loved one, knowing that there was nowhere to go for help. No one came until there was serious injury which was too often, but by then it was usually too late.
Then there was the sexual abuse of children. This happened to little boys as well as little girls. It happened in schools at home and in community centers. Priest and minister alike practiced it. Parents of children and trusted family members practiced incest. It happened all over and there was just no place to run and hide. There was no one to tell. Police and doctors, the courts and the church all covered it up, so where were you supposed to go for help? Every adult was not bad, but you were made to feel that way. Telling would mean trusting an adult, I knew by then not to trust them and I suffered for it.
With the little boys detection was harder, because most of the little boys loved it and kept their promises not to tell anyone as long as they kept getting sex from the females. If it was a male they were too embarrassed to tell. I remember walking down the hall looking at younger male students under a female teacher’s desk supposedly getting punished. I know of at least four students who were taken advantage of either in school, church, or their community center and if we take in the family home the number jumps into the hundreds. I was sexually assaulted by a trusted adult against my will and of the same gender as myself. I carry the emotional scars of that one time thing with me today. Although I have a lot of gay friends today, for a long time it left me very homophobic.
The females that I grew up with were raped repeatedly in their beds at night by drunken uncles and fathers. I know of a woman whose father told every boy on his street that they could all line up and have sex with his slut of a daughter. The line went from his apartment down the steps (he lived on the third floor) and out into the street. The boys went in through the front door and while they waited for the chance to go into the bed room where the girl was naked on a mattress, the boys were given a glass of wine by the mother. When they finished having sex with the girl who was maybe 15 at the time they left by the back door. I understand that this went on for over four hours. The reason that it happened is that she had sex with a boy and mom and dad decided to give her so much of what she craved that she would never do it, or want it for a long time. It did not work she ended up getting passed a round and sexually used by young and old men in the community. Every adult knew of this and no one said anything, or ever did anything to stop it, or help her. Why would any child feel safe to report any kind of abuse in this atmosphere.
Putting A Name On It
Then praise the Lord someone, somewhere coined the phrase child abuse and things started to change. Too late for my generation, but it slowed down the cycle of abuse passing from one generation to the next. It is not enough as long as one child still suffers. Tougher penalties for rapists and child molesters need to be enacted and enforced. Churches need to stop lying and deal with their abusive clergy. Children need to start reporting the abuse as soon as it happens and then authorities need to protect them from their abusers. Too often after a child accuses someone of abuse they are put back into the home where the alleged abuse is supposed to have happened. This practiced must be stopped.
A dear friend of mine who was also a victim of child abuse wrote, ” As long as there is just one child still being abused the fight to end child abuse can never end. The abused child of today becomes the abuser of tomorrow. This type of abuse has no social, or religious boundaries and has no geographical borders. This could be happening to your children, or mine right now. Children are all of our responsibility, so let’s get together and give them a world where they can grow up in without fear.”