years our society has turned a blind eye to the crimes against women
and children that occur behind closed doors. The old saying that
"a man's home is his castle" has been taken to mean that
whatever happens in the home is no one's business and should not be
interfered with. Gradually, some states have passed strict laws that
require any person who works with children to report to law
enforcement any sign of abuse to a child. That is a major breakthrough
in the battle against domestic violence.
Unfortunately, there are millions of children who have no visible
bruises but who regularly suffer emotional and psychological abuse.
They are warned (usually by mom) never to tell a soul about the abuse,
and they never do. They suffer in silence and then grow up to abuse
their dates as teens and their own children as adults. Thus, the cycle
of violence continues and grows. Teens from abusive homes are 25 times
as likely to abuse their dates than those from non-abusive homes.
These children are not identified and for them there is no help
The statistics are horrifying, but largely go unrecognized or
unacknowledged: 62% of teen mothers are prior victims of sexual abuse,
primarily from step-fathers, mother's boyfriends, family members, and
other they trust; 66% of children of teen mothers are fathered by
adult men, 20 years or older; 33% of teen girls are in an abusive
dating relationship before they are out of high school; 50% of dating
women suffer physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from their
dating partners; 35% of women who are killed in the U.S. are murdered
by a boyfriend or husband, 25% of them are 15-24 years old. And so the
violence continues, spiraling upward as millions of children grow up
thinking that violence and abuse are a normal way of life.
My own childhood was marred by emotional and psychological abuse by an
abusive, alcoholic stepfather. I had no visible bruises or scars, and
I would never, ever have told anyone. The person with visible bruises,
my mother, would have been mortified at the thought of friends,
neighbors, or even family knowing what she was suffering. I never
spoke of it until, in my senior years, I sat down to write a proposal
designed to help children who won't tell. My proposal is centered on a
community listing of counselors and psychologists who agree to accept
anonymous phone calls from children who are in abusive homes. The
counselor would help them cope with their environment and counsel them
on how to distinguish between abuse that is non-life-threatening and
that which is bad enough to advise the child to talk to a counselor
about it openly so they can get some protection from law enforcement.
When I began to work with my pastor to set up such a program, I ran
into objections from a church official who feared that my program
would undermine the law requiring disclosure. In order to continue my
effort to reduce the cycle of violence, my church will be working with
children who have at least one parent already convicted of child
abuse, so there can be no fear of hiding anything from the police.
One person, one church, cannot change the face of an incredibly
abusive society, but if it were to become a pursuit of many people in
many churches, change would eventually come. Details of the proposed
program can be found in a children's fable titled The Huckenpuck
Papers: the tale of a family's secret and a young girl's search
for self esteem, by P.J. Pokeberry.
Send this page to a friend.