Let’s talk about Abuse, so what is it? Google defines it this way:
1. Treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.
2. Use or treat in such a way as to cause damage or harm.
3. Speak to (someone) in an insulting and offensive way.
4. Cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal.
So no, when your mother tells you to go wash the dishes, or clean your room, or to turn off the Xbox, that. is. NOT. Abuse.
In the recent years, there’s been lots of awareness raised on domestic violence, or violence against women, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner. But not many talk about the abuse of children, and when you do see something about violence against children, often it’s about sex trafficking. In no way am I taking away the graveness of the issue of sex trafficking, it’s certainly a topic I will eventually touch on. For now, let’s stick to child abuse, it’s not often spoken about, but it is certainly a very real issue that is still happening right now in the midst of us, it’s interesting to me when I speak to people about it, often they can’t relate or believe that it’s so rare that it’s an exception to the norm. The truth is, just because it’s not spoken about, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
Let’s talk figures for a second:
1. In 2014-15, of the total number of notifications (320,169), 152,086 cases (involving 107,121 children) of child abuse were investigated or were in the process of being investigated. Of these investigations, 140,719 (92.5%) were finalised by 31 August 2015 and 56,423 cases were substantiated (AIHW, 2016). The 56,423 substantiations recorded nationally involved 42,457 children, which was a 3.9% increase from the 40,844 children found to be harmed or at risk of harm from abuse and/or neglect in 2013-14. Across the jurisdictions, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory had increased substantiations from 2013-14. In contrast, Queensland and South Australia saw substantiations drop by 13.1% and 14.7% respectively.
Overall, emotional abuse was the most common type of substantiated child maltreatment in Australia during 2014-15 (43% of all substantiations). However, this varied by jurisdiction, where in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory neglect was the most common type of substantiated maltreatment. Victoria had the largest proportion of emotional abuse substantiations (61.4%) compared to other states and territories, whereas South Australia had the smallest proportion of emotional abuse cases (28.8%). Emotional abuse was also the most common secondary type of maltreatment to co-occur with other primary types of child maltreatment. For example, emotional abuse as a secondary type of maltreatment co-occurred in 51.9% of cases of physical abuse and 28.8% of cases of substantiated sexual abuse
2. In 2014, state agencies identified an estimated 1,580 children who died as a result of abuse and neglect — between four and five children a day. However, studies also indicate significant undercounting of child maltreatment fatalities by state agencies — by 50% or more.
3. More than 70% of the children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect were two years of age or younger. More than 80% were not yet old enough for kindergarten.
Around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involve at least one parent as perpetrator.
4. Approximately 3.4 million children received an investigation or alternative response from child protective services agencies. 2.3 million children received prevention services.
I was one of these statistics. I would have stayed a statistic if it weren’t for Jesus in my life. Did i use God as a crutch? Maybe. If so, I certainly didn’t stay lame for long. Why am I only beginning to talk about it now? Because I’m beginning to believe that maybe I can make a difference, even if it meant only 1 persons life. You see, I was lucky enough and by the grace of God, had been taken in by 2 of the most wonderful people in the World and raised like I was their own, but unfortunately for a lot of others like me out there who had been abused may not be so lucky, they live with their pain, not being healed from it, but simply adopting a crippled way of living and eventually just letting it be a part of their norm. Child abuse doesn’t just affect the victim themselves, but it affects other children they come in contact with, it affects their children, and their children’s children, and eventually, your children. You see, It doesn’t just stop at the victim, when all their reality is abuse, then all they know is to live from that abuse, to filter everything from that abuse, and act from that perspective of life, of course unless there’s some sort of intervention. Even then, how many actually come out whole, unscathed and undamaged?
I was raised being taught that abuse was the way to “discipline” children, to instill fear so that they will obey, never to question. If my mother thought I did something wrong, even when I didn’t, I definitely still did.
As I sat here with a friend tonight looking at the photos which was retrieved from my case file from the Royal Children’s hospital, of the whip marks and bruises all over my body, I recount the kind of abuse I actually endured. My friend asked “What would she use? What would she actually do?”
Let’s just recount that one fateful night which led to my decision to reach out for help.
As I sat there at 12 in the morning, couldn’t sleep, just waiting for my mum to come home to “discipline” me, knowing I was in trouble, I was trembling uncontrollably. When she finally got home, I pleaded to my mum that I was sorry, I won’t do it again, she yelled uncontrollably, “Pack your bags and leave! If you don’t, I will hit you to death! Go ahead! Go call the police, see if I care!” I didn’t move, I cried, begging saying “I don’t want to lose this family, I’m so sorry, please…” As she raised her hand, she repeated, “Why aren’t you leaving! Are you going to leave or not?!” I was so terrified of being hit, I obeyed and went to my room and proceeded to grab my school bag, pretending to pack… Now shaking, still unsure of what I should do to calm her rage, the next thing I saw was her grabbing a wooden curtain rod and came in screaming “You really went and packed your bags! Unbelievable!” After that, I could barely remember what she screamed because of the agony from every blow, to my legs, my arms, my back, I curled up into a ball, lying on the floor crying of desperation, in hopes it would stop. When the rod finally broke, there was a glimpse of hope that it would finally stop. It didn’t. It wasn’t even close. She walked to the the fireplace to retrieve the metal fire poker and continued, now every blow more agonizing than the last, at times I couldn’t breathe from the crying and the screaming. She hit so hard, eventually the metal fire poker bent, it was so bent she couldn’t hit me with it anymore, so she pulled me by the hair and proceeded to slap me across the face profusely till she tore my earring out and it began to bleed. Eventually it stopped, the mercy I found was at the stone brick floors, when I was made to kneel there as her final way of punishment. I was finally relieved of my punishment at 4am. Barely able to walk back into my room. That, was my norm.
At times if she couldn’t find anything to hit me with, she would slam my head against the wall. Not to mention the one time she starved me for 3 days and 3 nights for something I didn’t actually do. Where was my dad when all this was happening? Just standing in the kitchen watching it all unravel. Where were my siblings? They were in their bedrooms, escaping from the drama, not wanting to get involved or hurt themselves. Did I blame them for not protecting me? I did. Do I blame them now? The truth is, there are moments I still wish they had protected me but I don’t blame them for not doing so. We were in an environment where we had to fend for ourselves, survival of the fittest. That was just the physical side of the abuse, the constant belittling, name calling, and the times when she took me to see different psychologist to try to prove that there was something mentally wrong with me but only to be angered by the professionals telling her that the problem was with her and not with me.
When you grow up in this kind of environment, it does something to you. No child is born evil, they are a sheet of pure white, the colors are dependent on what your parents expose you to. My heart was always so heavy, I was very conflicted because naturally I wanted to love my mum, but the truth was, I hated her guts, most of all, I was always in a state of fear around her. Home wasn’t safe. It was never a refuge, but a cage. I was spiraling downhill into darkness and I hated every part of my life even though I was only 12. I wished she was dead, but I also worried when she didn’t come home at night. I was so confused.
The next day after the abuse, I called a neighbor and asked for help, they said they didn’t want any trouble, so they didn’t take me in. I called a friend and asked for help. She said I could seek refuge with her at her place and to meet her at the train station. I packed a few things and quickly climbed out the window when my mum was still asleep. When I got to the train station I used the few coins I had to call my friend who was supposed to meet me there, but she said, her family didn’t want any trouble either and left me there. Stranded, now nowhere to turn back to, I could only go to the police booth located at the train station to seek for help. After lots of questioning from the police officer, then being taken to the World Trade Center to await my fate, I was then taken to the children’s hospital so they could examine the inflicted injuries. I had to go into a separate room, made to stand on a chair with just the hospital gown on so a photographer could take photos of all the bruises, whip marks and scars left on my body. They told me it was so they can use it to examine whether my story matched up to the wounds and used as evidence in court. As much as I understood it was procedure, I was 12. They asked me whether I wanted to sue my parents, what? I was 12! What would I know about suing my parents? or about suing anything at all? I just wanted the abuse to stop. Again, procedure. Finally, they put me in a temporary accommodation, I was told I’d be left there for a while, the old lady creeped me out. She’d take me on the bus to go to school and made remarks like “You’re so antisocial, you seem like you don’t want to socialize with other kids on the bus” Woman, I just came out of an abusive home, I think the last thing I was thinking about was socializing with teenagers who may or may not ask why I had so many bruises on my legs and arms… God bless her soul, I know she was just trying to help. I finally told my case worker that I really wasn’t comfortable being there and finally they transferred me to elsewhere, although it was only meant to be temporary, little did we know, it eventually became my home until I became an adult. I was too old to be adopted in, so technically they were my carers, but for the sake of the exercise, I will call them my foster parents to make it easier for those who may come across this blog. I owe a lot to them, I wish I could do more than just honor them with words. I know one day I will. They would never do it for self gain, they are the most selfless people I know, they taught me a lot of my core values now, but most of all they showed me what unconditional love looked like. Foster parents and the foster care system to my knowledge, is not very well funded and looked after, and so unfortunately foster parents and caretakers suffer. You think biological parents are the greatest most selfless people in the world when it comes to their children. Wait until you meet a foster parent, especially foster parents whose heart is for God. They choose to love children not of their own as if they are theirs, they sacrifice money, time, emotions, their entire life just to make a difference in someone elses life and most of the time, with nothing in return. Most of these kids end up leaving at the age of 16-18, never to hear from them again, gone to lead a life who knows whether good or bad.
I’m not saying foster parents are the greatest and better than biological parents or vice versa, but what I am saying is, if you had the ability to love a child, don’t just consider having your own. If you are trying really hard to have children and you haven’t been able to conceive, don’t shut down the possibility of taking in someone elses as your own. I will write in greater detail about the need of more foster parents and why it’s so crucial now more so than ever before in my next post. Unfortunately, my case of abuse is light compared to others I have come across, but for now I hope, I was able to give you a glimpse into the lives of abused children and to help you consider more than what meets the eye.
Love, Little Miss J ♥