Social Justice Challenge: Child Abuse and Domestic Violence

This month’s theme for The Social Justice Challenge is Child Abuse and Domestic Violence.

Natasha is asking a few questions to get us started:

  • What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of domestic violence and child abuse?
  • What does domestic violence and child abuse mean to you personally?
  • What is your current knowledge of domestic violence and child abuse?
  • Are you aware of the resources available for men, women and children who find themselves in domestic violence and child abuse situations?
  • Have you chosen a book or resource to read for this month?
  • Take some time and think about what potential action steps you could take.  (I’ll have a post dedicated to this shortly).

Before I became a Physical Therapist, I worked with children in a residential treatment center. I worked with girls, under the age of 13, who were so emotionally and behaviorally disturbed they had to live in an institutional setting. Many were on strong, psychotropic medications. All of them had one thing in common – they were victims of severe child abuse, primarily sexual abuse, which had begun (for most of them) before they were school age. These were kids that at very young ages had been raped, molested, beaten, choked, starved, and neglected.

It was heartbreaking.

I lived that job.

I could not put it to rest.

I still, more than 20 years later, have photos of the kids I worked with tucked into my bedside table. I wonder where they are today – how many are in mental hospitals? Dead? In prison? Living on the streets? How many were able to overcome their severe abuse to go on and live a normal life? I will never know. And it haunts me. Child abuse is one of the worst crimes. It targets our most vulnerable and innocent members of society.

So, the theme of child abuse is one which is important to me. I intend to participate fully in this month’s theme.

Unfortunately I know a lot about child abuse from my work with abused kids. I also am a mandated reporter as I am a health care professional…and I’ve had to make several reports to Child Protective Services over the years when I have encountered situations in my work which require me to take action. There are times I do not want to learn more about this subject – but without knowledge, how can we protect children? How can we make our communities safer?

Books I am considering reading:

I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, edited by Ellen Bass and Louise Thornton who write in their preface…’Our primary hope for this anthology is that the sexually abused child will come to understand that she can tell. In this telling, she can reclaim her innocence. She is innocent. She has always been innocent. Botht he burden of the crime and the crime itself are lifted from her shoulders. She can tell.

Ellen Foster, by Kate Gibbons – a novel whose 11 year old protagonist is a victim of abuse and neglect.

Say You’re One of Them, by Uwem Akpan – a short story collection. The flap on the book reads: ‘Every story is a testament to the wisdom and resilience of children, even in the face of the most agonizing situations our planet can offer.‘ The stories include themes of child sex slavery and abuse.

Action Step:

There are multiple organizations which address the issues of child abuse and domestic violence. I have yet to decide what my action step will be, but I am looking closely at the following:

Raising public awareness through the organization Darkness to Light whose mission is to raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.

Exploring possibilities through the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) which ‘serves as the nation’s principle information and resource center regarding all aspects of sexual violence. It provides national leadership, consultation and technical assistance by generating and facilitating the development and flow of information on sexual violence intervention and prevention strategies. The NSVRC works to address the causes and impact of sexual violence through collaboration, prevention efforts and the distribution of resources.

I hope you’ll visit The Social Justice Challenge blog and check out links to other participant posts on this subject.

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  1. I admire you for reading these books … but whenever I read a book with this theme, I get so depressed. If you’re looking for another one, I recently read “Gemma” by Meg Tilly and that was very disturbing but offered a ray of hope at the end. And Tilly herself was a survivor of sexual abuse. Here is the link to my review if you want more info. It would definitely fit into the challenge:

    Bless you for doing that work that you did. It couldn’t have been easy.

    • carolyn on March 8, 2010 at 19:35

    I just read Say You’re One of Them Last Month. I expected it to be rather banal and manipulative, (my prejudice against Oprah picks, and I know it’s not fair), but I was surprised at how good the writing was. The rhythm in each of the five (I think it was five) stories was different, and they were each moving in their own way. I can’t say I enjoyed it (because the topics were painful), but I think it’s an important book to read and, as I say, the writing was first rate. One of the uplifting threads in the book is the unrelenting struggle for survival that children have, no matter how bad their circumstances. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, even if the differ from mine.

  2. My work is set in our grandmothers’ and great-grandmothers’ generation, and the sad fact is that the character who has a happy friendship but an abusive marriage also has to live with the fact that in those years, domestic violence was never talked about. As Gloria Steinem once said, I believe: what we call “abuse,” people used to just call “life.”

    Let’s hope the subject stays open and on the table. Thanks for these posts.

    • Wendy on March 12, 2010 at 14:58

    Jenners: I agree that these kinds of books are very difficult to read…I certainly can’t read a lot of them in a row! Thanks for sharing your review too. And yes, the work I did with the kids was tough…it completely burned me out emotionally and has stuck with me all these years.

    Carolyn: I am looking forward to reading that collection – I have only heard the best things about Akpam’s writing…

    Shelly: What is the title of your work? I do think this is important to talk about…it is the only way we can possibly see a change.

  3. I appreciate your article! I especially like how you add action steps. Keep up the good work!

    • Wendy on March 15, 2010 at 17:40

    Mom Who Hurts: I went over to your blog…wow, I give you tremendous credit of the courage you have to share your deepest feelings about something so traumatic. I really respect that kind of bravery. Hope you’ll come back and visit again soon.

  4. Thanks Wendy for a fantastic post and for participating in this challenge. I added the books you mentioned onto our resource page.

  5. Wonderful post. What a tough job you have had and I can not imagine the heartbreak.

    I am taking note of the books you mention here.

    • Wendy on March 24, 2010 at 13:32

    Natasha: You’re welcome – thanks for adding the books to the resource page!

    Sheila: It was a terribly heartbreaking job – but it made me an advocate for children which is important.

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