Monday, June 18, 2007

Child Abuse in the News or Mothers and the Modern Media II

If you’ve watched the news lately, I’m sure you’ve come across the recent incidences of child abuse. It’s on every channel. Names such as Nixmary and Andrea Yates conjure up gruesome images of horrid conditions and mothers who go so far as to kill their children. But we can’t leave out the fact that even priests, the ultimate in purity and guidance have been coming out left and right as having sexually abused the very children they were meant to nurture and save from such actions. Then there are the teachers. I think the name Mary Kay LeTourneau can still turn a few stomachs. She’s ‘famous’ for sleeping with her twelve-year-old student whom she had known since he was in second grade. They are now married with children (though I don’t think they have custody).

These stories are in the media so much now it makes me sick. Every paper I pick up has a story of a child brain-damaged from being shaken by an angry parent, molested by a day-care worker, or even dead from parents who refuse to feed them until they behave, or other such nonsense.

The case of Andrea Yates goes back to what I was mentioning before about the ‘Cult of the Mother.’ She is in no way the first to kill her children, nor will she be the last. There is a long list of mothers who ended up taking the lives of those they were supposed to hold dear. These include:

Patricia Blackmon was 29 years old when she killed her two-year-old adopted daughter in Dothan, AL in May 1999.

Debra Jean Milke was 25 when she killer her four-year-old son in Arizona in 1989.

Dora Luz Durenrostro killed her two daughters, age four and nine, and her son, age 8, when she was 34 years old in San Jacinto, California in 1994.

Caro Socorro was 42 years old when she killed her three sons, age five, eight and 11, in Santa Rosa Valley, California in 1999.

Susan Eubanks murdered her four sons, ages four, six, seven, and 14, in San Marcos, California, in 1996 when she was 33.

Caroline Young was 49 in Haywood, California when she killed her four-year-old granddaughter and six-year-old grandson.

Robin Lee Row was 35 years old when she killed her husband, her 10-year-old son and her eight-year-old daughter in Boise, Idaho in 1992.

Michelle Sue Tharp was 29 years old in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania when she killed her seven-year-old daughter.

Franic Elaine Newton was 21 when she murdered her husband, seven-year-old son and two-year-old daughter in Houston, Texas.

Darlie Lynn Routier was 26 in Rowlett, Texas when she killed her five-year-old son.

(Note, all the above were taken from )

Even Brooke Shields and Marie Osmond have admitted to having post-partum and not being able to deal with the feelings they have for their children when they found it wasn’t all love and devotion. I mention these because, most notably with Osmond, they are people that have become icons and especially with Marie, darn near infallible in the eyes of society.

I remember one year when I was maybe, seven years old, my brother and I each got a rabbit. His was a gray male that my brother named Johnny, and mine was a white female I named Snuffy, short for Mr. Snuffleupagus, my favorite Sesame Street character. My mother told me that if she were to get pregnant and give birth, we’d have to separate her from her children.

“But why?” I asked. “How can they live without her?”

“Because,” she responded her gray/blue eyes looking into my hazel ones, “Often times rabbits kill their young.”

I didn’t understand this. I couldn’t see how a mother could kill her child (even if the abuse in my house had started already, for the longest time I felt I deserved if for doing something wrong). But it is all too common in the animal world. In college my roommate and I each bought a goldfish. One gave birth, and we watched in amazement as the cute little fry swum around the tank. The next morning they were all gone, eaten. It’s only natural. So who are we, as humans, to think we are above it all?

The thing is, and I don’t know if this is just a phenomenon in America, we hold ourselves above all beings. Despite being in the same genus as chimps, we are better. We are smarter, we use tools, etc. etc.

Yet we are unable to take a critical look at ourselves and rather than be afraid, step back and see how to change things. We are unable to stop ostracizing people for natural feelings. We are unable to accept that mothers, teachers, and even our religious leaders are imperfect.

I really don’t know what to think about such things. As pertains to myself, I mentioned before how no one listened to me, or wanted to listen to me perhaps because of the view that mothers can do no wrong, sometimes I think it was because they had gone through the same thing themselves. It’s so easy to turn away.

But with this notion of perfection comes an incredible burden. People are denied validation of their feelings. They fear what is natural. If a mother begins to think her child is ugly, isn’t perfect, she can begin to become afraid of her own thoughts. Granted, these are symptoms of a treatable illness, but how public is the knowledge? Isn’t it easier to wallow in self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness than to face the fact that something might be wrong? And isn’t it easier because there just isn’t a prominent belief or understanding that even those that are supposed to be infallible are, in fact, human and face the same diseases and demons as the rest of us?

This is becoming a long post, but it’s something that bothers me. With the case of Nixmary what the media showed was shocking. Here was a little girl that had, by all cases, cried out for help. Everyone seemed to realize after the fact that there were signs. Social Services was called. But no one did anything.

Shock. That was the headline, “A City in Shock.”

Shock (as defined by A severe offense to one's sense of propriety or decency; an outrage. As in “numb in shock.’

It’s the numbness in that definition that bugs me. People became numb. There was an immediate outcry for help and reform and then – nothing. Society cries for a solution to the immediate problem, not the root disease, and becomes satisfied with band-aids. Nothing is accomplished except that our communities are stuck together with tape and nothing really changes.

What is my solution? Admit things. Admit it if you are afraid. Admit that you’re scared. And recognize that there is nothing wrong with that. Admit how you feel, accept it, then look for the root cause. Admit that things in the world are messed up but instead of dwelling on the surface grab a shovel and dig deeper. But don’t think that everything is bad, just because there is a lot on the news, or in the paper. Realize that in the U.S. at least ‘news’ is an economic venture, and bad news sells better than good. There is a lot of good in the world, and you can be a big part of it.

Also, see what you can do, even if it is just listening to someone. Often, that is such a healing activity. The elderly are so much livelier when they know someone recognizes their existence and the value of their stories. Children glow when you listen to them talk about their day or tell their fantasies. And by truly hearing what someone has to say, who knows what you’ll discover. I know the more I’ve listened the more I realized I’m not alone in my questioning, in my quest. I’m not the only one who is searching for my identity in a world I don’t understand.

Talk to me, I want to know people’s tales. I want the chance to listen to others as I struggle to find my voice. We can help each other out.


Max said...

Hello Vic! I am sorry about your childhood; your example (and the others you have given) should make us meditate on what kind of world we are living in! You are correct when you say that humans are better than animals, since we were blessed with reason, however some humans do not make use of it; because if they did they'd question every little of their thoughts and actions! I am in shock everytime I learn that a woman mistreats a child (since a woman is the symbol of love, caring, nurture...of life itself)! I have never experienced abuse of any kind, but I've heard of testimonies of such kind, and I think we all are responsible for the increase of such events, cause we (as society) choose to ignore the signs (cause there's always a sign of some sort!
Feel free to visit me on my blog:
I'm glad you're on the path to closure!

The Real Mother Hen said...

What a powerful and awakening post.

Cori@SAHMbles said...

Hey Victoria!

Thanks for stopping by and the hugs.


heavenabove said...

I was recently told by a person working in the child protective system that they are in a terrible bind when it comes to taking kids out of their natural homes. They are in a catch 22. Some kids may be less abused if they stay in their home. Most kids that do get removed from an abusive home end up being more abused in foster care or orphanages. The outcome is not good for the kids either way and unless there is sexual abuse in the home, most kids are left at home these days. The system is not working. The now ex-employee I am talking about ended up quitting the job that she spent years and lots of money training for because it was so frustrating, saddening, and angering-it is basically hopeless.

It seems like more and more horribly sicking stuff is happpening to kids these days than in the past. I have experienced abuse as a young child and the older I get the more I am sickened by what is happening to innocent children. I often wonder what is happening in our society that allows this type of behavior to continue and why it seems to be gettting worse.

When I was a teenager, I ended up in a drug & alcohol treatment program. Basically, the workers there ended up feeling as if I was just in there to find a way out of my home. Even after getting that feeling, they never questioned me again about the situation or asked me if I wanted help with it. I was in the place by force so I really didn't tell them a whole lot anyway. Even if anyone would have asked or tried to help I would have insisted I was OK. It is bad to grow up abused but it is also scary to a child to be ripped away from the only family you know by complete strangers to a life of uncertainty. When a child is at home, they "belong", when you have to go live with foster parents or in a group home, you don't feel you belong. When you are at home, you at least have the "stability" of knowing what is going to happen and what to expect. You know how to deal with the situation even thouhg you don't want to have to. PLus, if your own family would hurt you, you think strangers would find it much easier to do the same or worse-you cannot trust anyone. I am also one of those people "searching for my identity in a world I don’t understand" but I am not brave enough yet to be as open about it as you are. I guess it's just instilled in me now to fear the consequences of my actions. I praise you for not letting something like that stop your recovery! You are becoming an inspiration to me.

Victorya said...

Oh heaven, I want to hug you :)

I fought the same thing, the school couldn't take me out of my home, plus I was terrified to leave. My mother constantly threatened that if I left I would just be raped elsewhere, and seeing what happened to my friends I knew it was a possibility.

It's such a scary world for children out there.

Victorya said...

And while I'm at it heaven, you are very brave. You voice your opinion in your own blog, and just shared part of your story here.

I want to hug you again, lol. We're all in this together.

Amel's Realm said...

WOW!!! Such a deep and honest post.

THX for commenting on my post, Vic. I'm sorry to hear about your past and I AGREE completely that we have to admit our feelings and do not deny them and seek the root causes.

And yes, it DOES help A LOT when you know you're not the only out there who wonders about such-and-such.

Summer said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with the Carnival Against Child Abuse. The world is a scary place out there for children.