Keep Speaking Out on
by Ken Scully (first appeared in
the Ellsworth American, June 1996)
Everywhere we look, we see newspaper
stories or segments on the local news program about incidents of child
abuse. Yet child abuse continues to happen. Why does it continue? How can
we get it to stop? Both of these questions are huge, but they do have answers!
The answers are painful, however.
Locally, we had the Ardolino trial
(a little boy was brutally killed by his father). Dr. Steven Dunton, pathologist
and pediatrician, testified for the defense. He stated that a 9-year-old
child is strong enough and quick enough to elude a person who would repeatedly
beat him. Dr. Dunton, a "supposed" expert, is a wonderful example of what
allows child abuse to continue- the complete lack of empathy and understanding
of the plight of children everywhere. .
Children, when faced with someone
violent, powerful, and larger than they are, will often become compliant.
They will not even fight back during the abuse. The abuse is over quicker,
and the abuser most certainly will not allow the least bit of defiance
on the child's part. You see, it is the power to say "No!" that the abuser
is trying to destroy. The ability to say "No!" is a child's vitality. With
it, he can learn to protect himself, and later, others. With it, he can
learn to tell on his abuser, and later, he will have the power to confront
other abusers. With it he can recognize that it is the actions of the abuser
that are bad, and not himself. Later, he can recognize abuse when he sees
it, even though others may not. I understand this in a way that one cannot
from books. I was that child, I have remembered how I felt, and I can now
say "No!" again.
The answer to the first question
(why does it continue?) is that often, our family histories keep us from
seeing and responding to abuse that is right in front of us. We minimize
the impact on the child, because to recognize his agony, would be to recognize
our own, from when we were children. To continue to feel that as children
would have been too much. We repress it, putting it on the backburner of
our unconscious, until we have a safe enough, and supportive enough environment.
Many of us remember beatings, without remembering their true agony. We
walk around feeling like something is missing, never truly enjoying life,
lives of quiet desperation. What is missing is our power, our vitality,
that ability to say "No!". We see today's world through the "filter" of
our past. This "filter" is called denial. We are indoctrinated by other
people's denial, as we grow up. We come from a society, which has in the
past, been built with denial. That, at least, has changed some, (I emphasize
the word some!). To sum up the answer to the first question: abuse continues
because we are not willing to face our own pain. .
© 1996 Ken Scully
The answer to the second question
(how do we stop abuse?) is frustrating and elusive. Abusing, and nonabusing
adults must confront their pasts and heal the pain they carry. Unfortunately,
denial keeps them unaware that they even carry that pain from the past.
Many, having confronted some of that pain, have not yet reclaimed their
power- that ability to say "No!". But many have, and still more will. We
are taking baby steps now, we will take giant steps as time goes on! There
is a quiet revolution going on, and it will succeed! Its weapons are honesty,
openness, empathy, mutual respect, and a sense of community. Slowly the
tide will turn. In the meantime, we must keep speaking out!