Sunday, June 8, 2014

I know, I kid. But seriously, folks...

Back on April 12th, I posted about A Difficult Topic.  Tomorrow is World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse, so it's worth revisiting.  But today's post is essentially about the other side of the coin, as it were.  The part we, as a global community, play in the Prevention of Child Abuse.

If you read the April 12th post, or if you actually know me at all, you probably realize that what I went through was maintained for so long because it was a secret.  Not until Cheryl and I decided we'd had enough, and chose to say something, was there anything anyone else could have done to step in and make it stop.

But Child Abuse isn't limited to secrets within a family.  There's physical evidence of abuse; there's emotional trauma that displays itself out in "the world."  This is the abuse that we, as a global community, have decided en masse that we must do something to prevent.  But in order for us to prevent this kind of abuse, we have to step in - we have to take pictures of things we see as "not right" - we have to report what we suspect to the authorities, so that we can feel better about ourselves, because obviously the parent we suspect of abusing or neglecting their child is clearly a much worse person than we are, right?

Wait a minute.  NO.  This article, while "too wordy" or just "too long," in my opinion, gets to the point of our part in the prevention of child abuse.  Let me tell you my version of this lady's story:

When I was youngish and stupid-enough, I was married to a man who had a child from his first marriage.  We had custody of his child by way of the biological mother just "giving" us the kid.  We loved her and did what we could to give her a good childhood.  We put her in public school and sent her off to kindergarten on the bus.  Everything was peachy.

Then an older boy, a sixth-grader, I think, taught our little angel how to "flip people off."  She decided that showing folks her extended middle finger out the windows of the bus was a fun thing to do.  She had no idea what it meant or that the boy was actually bullying her because of her size or innocence.  So we got a call from the assistant principal, explaining what Kristine had been doing, and that her "punishment" was no bus for two days, and would I please pick her up from school that day?

Now, I have to tell you.  I didn't think the "punishment" fit the "crime" nor would it teach her even what she'd done wrong, much less not to do it anymore.  And I didn't feel like I should be "punished" for not having taught her what not to do on the schoolbus.  So I asked my neighbor if he'd drop me off at the pickup line, so I could walk her home, which he was happy to do.  I'd have walked the entire round-trip, but I wasn't in shape for a four-mile walk in the country, particularly on such short notice.

So I'm walking her home.  I'm the one walking in the street, facing traffic, and I'm holding her five-year-old hand, and she's walking on the shoulder of the street, which just happened to need mowing.  She's really working my left arm, not fighting me, per se, but sort of walk-jumping (as 5-year-olds are wont to do), repeatedly saying something along the lines of "I. Don't. Like. This. Grass.  This. Grass. Is. Biting. Me."  Over and over, for two miles, down a rural "highway" that has one lane of traffic in each direction, and but for the occasional vehicle which stops and offers me a ride, there is no traffic.

Because my response to the offers was a rather cheerful "No, thanks!  We're fine!" with a little happy wave good-bye, I thought nothing of it.  I was in no way endangering my step-child.  But not long after we got home, when she was settled in and happy to be out of the bitey grass, I got a phone call from Social Services.  They were going to have to visit us.  They were going to need to interview me, and my husband, and the child in question!  They were going to have to see our lovely home, and her beautiful PINK room, and determine that I am not spawn of the devil, intent on harming a poor innocent.

I was absolved of all wrong-doing, and the assistant principal called again to beg me to drive, but since I refused, he allowed her back on the bus.  But my point is, the "village" that stepped in to try to help me raise my child didn't offer their help to me beyond offering a ride.  No one stopped long enough to notice that I was not angry or frustrated or upset.  I was not beating my child.  She probably had a grumpy face, but if anyone had asked what was going on, (not that I would have taken the time to explain it on a highway), they'd have realized that this wasn't a moment where the village needed to step in.

I do believe that we can have an impact on Child Abuse, locally and globally.  But we need to weigh the situations before us before we blindly call the authorities.  If there's a child who is clearly endangered or in pain, we should probably attempt a discourse with the child first, or his parents, or both.  If the situation warrants a call to the authorities, fine.  But find out first.

My apologies for being too "wordy" or "ranty" or serious.  I woke up with this issue on my mind, and if that's not what blogs are for, then what is? Are? Um...  I'll be back to cheerful tomorrow.  :)

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