Keep Speaking Out on Child Abuse

    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. . 
  • 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! 
© 1996 Ken Scully 
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