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The Subject of Child Abuse - Livin' the Good Life

Jul. 25th, 2013

02:34 pm - The Subject of Child Abuse

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Nosing around on Facebook, I stumbled across a case of brutality in the 1960s Indianapolis (researching some history in Steve's home town) that shocked me to my core. It was the story of Sylvia Liken. She and her sister were left by their carnival-working parents with near-strangers, for $20.00 a week, so they could go out on the carnival circuit while their girls attended school. Three months later, one of their girls was dead. It was a case of the mother, her children, and the neighborhood kids brutally torturing the one girl until she finally succumbed. My heart broke when I read the police report.

Whose fault was this? The parents, for leaving their children with strangers? The mother's who was supposedly "taking care" of the girls? The girl's sister, who never told anybody what was going on? The neighbors' for not noticing something was amiss? The teacher's at school for not noticing and reporting bruises and telltale behavior? The neighborhood kids for gleefully joining in on the torture?
All of the above.

Something is very wrong in this society. There are numerous other "famous" cases over the years of the ongoing torture of children where no one noticed or reported it. THIS MUST STOP!

I spoke with Nathen about it last night, and we were brainstorming ways to stop the torture of children. Here are some ways we came up with:

1. Know, and socialize with, your neighbors. Know their children by name, who lives at their houses and what their relationships are. I don't see this as nosey or none of anyone else's business. I consider it a matter of safety, of caring about the welfare and happiness of children, as well as their parents. We need to interact with those around us. Tell your neighbors to call you if they are worried about something they see going on in the neighborhood or if they feel unsafe. Then pass that information on to the rest of the neighbors. Offer to look after your neighbor's house should they be away for a time. Know their animals and their names. Provide a listening ear while chatting "across the fence".
I know some people don't want neighbors "knowing their business" and that used to be a common criticism of life in small towns. But, the alternative is that they are all alone with no immediate help if they need it. Their children are safer if someone else is noticing when, or if, they come home from school or if they bring a stranger home when their parents aren't home. Another person to notice if their kid didn't "look right" or act normal. Another person who cares for and is concerned about their kid. And they, theirs.

2. Teach your child not to bully or tolerate bullying. Step in firmly when you see it, and let your child know you won't tolerate it or let it go on. They are developing their internal "parent" that will continue to guide and be a voice inside them for the rest of their lives. That will be YOUR voice! Help your child develop empathy as they become mature enough to understand. Model it. Talk about it at home. Suggest ways to react when they see it in the neighborhood or at school. "Why is that child (or adult) acting that way?" "How could this be handled in a better way?" Until your child is old enough to understand and deal with bullying, be their protector and advocate.
A friend of ours has a son who has been in a small private school until this year. They put him in public school for second grade. He is a sensitive and gentle little boy. All went well until an older girl decided to bully and pick on him. He came right home and told his parents, and his dad made an appointment THAT DAY (this will not go on one more day!) with the school. He went down there, explained the situation, asked for a conference with the girl and her parents and settled the problem right then and there. The girl left his boy alone from then on, and he's had no further problems. What excellent modeling for everyone involved.
Why did I not get bullied as a child? Why didn't I bully? I think I didn't because my parents set a firm standard of behavior for me. They also let me know how worthy I was of excellent treatment. I knew I could expect people to treat me kindly and respectfully and that I should do the same for them. My parents taught me the Golden Rule. They also taught me to look for the good in people.... to not be critical of them. However, if they saw kids acting badly, they pointed out that we didn't do that in our family. Period.

3. And, finally, though I'm sure there's lots more we can do that I haven't mentioned, tell someone.
If you see or suspect abuse or mistreatment of a child, tell someone. Tell authorities if you think it warrants it. Tell your child to come to you if they see or experience something they think is not right.
If everyone did that, maybe children could live in a safer world and we wouldn't have the terrible cases like that of Sylvia Likens to feel heart-sick about.

PS I just got done writing this and another example of bullying came up on my Facebook page. (Have they got my number?) What would you do if you saw this happening?


Date:July 31st, 2013 03:33 am (UTC)
I hear so much about bullying these days, and I don't doubt the reality of it at all....but like you, I was never ever bullied as a child and don't know anyone who was. Was I just oblivious to it? Or did kids just have a more natural respect for others back then? I really don't know.

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Date:August 3rd, 2013 03:27 am (UTC)
Suggestion: Ask your kids if they ever witnessed bullying. You might be surprised.
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