Child Abuse in a Local Supermarket – Children Are Human BeingsWednesday, July 31, 2013
Child Abuse in a Local Supermarket
Children Are Human Beings
here; and my answers for Caring Witness about intervening, in a form of an article Being A Witness Of Child Abuse, can be found here.)
Today I’d like to share with you another personal story about child abuse in public I’ve witnessed some time ago. I was reading parts of my journal and found this entry from last year. I think I’ve shared this somewhere on Facebook back then too, so I apologize if you have already read this. But hopefully this will be interesting for most of my readers.
[Originally written on January 19, 2012; slightly edited]
I was in a local supermarket, and not that far from me there was a woman with a boy. She was aggressively telling her child to walk along, but he refused and started to cry. Then she pushed him so hard that he fell down and slid a couple of feet forwards. Afterwards she grabbed his hand, dragged him up by it, and yelled at him. I rushed towards them and asked her, “Missis, what are you doing?” She said that it's none of my business. I said, “He’s your child, he’s a small child.” She said that he’s not obeying her and that it’s none of my business, and she walked past me. I walked behind her and said that she’s three times his size; that he’s crying; that I don't want to call the police because of this; and asked her how would she feel if someone did that to her. (Basically, at that point I tried so say anything that would make her stop actively abusing her child.) She dismissed me again, but at least at that point she let go of the child; he just stood there sad, hurt, and scared. I got on one knee – so that I would be on his level – and asked him if he’s hurt. But he was too scared or too dissociated to talk to me. (Probably because I’m a stranger, and his mother just abused him, and she’s right there, and he’s dependent on her.) As I asked him, his mother quickly said that of course he’s not hurt – he knows how to fall even harder, and that I should go away if I don't want her to accuse me of stalking. I said that it would be useful for her to rethink if that’s really the way she wants to raise her child. At that point I didn’t know what else to say, so I walked away.
I knew that it probably won‘t be of much use, but I still decided to try this. I went to the security guard and told him about the situation. He walked to the woman, talked with her a little bit, and came back to me. With a smile on his face he told me that she looks very angry ant that she’s probably a drug addict, and that I can call police if I want. I said that she will be gone by the time police arrives. (Although I strongly doubt the police would even bother to come for that; and even if they do, most likely they won’t do anything really useful anyway. Even according to the law – of which I’m not a fan – child abuse is legal in Lithuania.) The guard said that there’s nothing he can do, and that his job is to ensure that there are no fights. To that I replied, “So, you protect adults, but you don't protect small children?” He had no good answer to that and repeated that there’s nothing he can do, and that I can call the police if I want...
Oh, and, of course, all this time nobody else did or said anything, just stood there uncomfortably looking at the other side and/or awkwardly smiling...
I just hope that one day the child will remember that someone acknowledged his hurt and injustice.
Now, this kind of physical abuse is pretty easy to understand, so I won’t be talking about obvious potential harm like physical harm (bruises, broken limbs and so on). But what’s also extremely harmful – even more harmful – is emotional and psychological abuse.
With her actions this mother is stating that her child is her property, and that she’ll use brute force without considering her boy’s physical and mental health just to make him obey her. And remember, it’s not one isolated incident (“he knows how to fall even harder”). His body is her property. He must do whatever she wants, and if he doesn’t, he will suffer severe harm. His preferences don’t matter. His emotions don’t matter. He’s scared, hurt, devalued, and the person that is responsible for his survival and well-being is harming him severely. Again. And in public, therefore also publicly humiliating him. And people around him don’t recognize it, or just don’t care (in this specific example, everyone except me). And since for the child his environment is his whole world, psychologically this means for him that the world in general is a scary, dangerous, and cold place to live in.
This kind of abuse pretty much guarantees that this boy will grow up with severe PTSD. And all this fear, hurt, and repressed anger that stems from his early abusive environment may show up in forms of following symptoms:
Shattered self-worth. I don’t own myself; my needs, emotions, and preferences don’t matter.
Fear of intimacy / counter-dependency. My primary caregivers – people who theoretically are closest to me – severely and constantly hurt me, so it’s not safe to be close to someone.
Perfectionism / fear of making mistakes / overthinking / obsessive-compulsive behavior. If I do something wrong, then severe pain occurs.
People-pleasing. If I don’t act how others want me to act, then I’m not accepted – that in one’s childhood meant rejection, abandonment, and, fundamentally, death.
And various other interpersonal, physical, emotional, and psychological problems, like aggressive behavior; self-destructive behavior; chronic depression; chronic loneliness; social phobia; lack of self-care skills.
Children are not property. They are people, like you and me. It's even bizarre to me that today, in the 21st century – in times where we have such wonders as the internet, biorobotics, and spaceflight – these statements have to be stated explicitly... Today more people are vocal about animal rights and environmentalism than about child abuse and its concequences. (Hint: if you’re more concerned about separating plastic bags from empty soda cans than about how to properly raise children, then your priorities are not that in tact...)
Children are human beings. Every adult was a child once. Children are human beings with their own strong needs, emotions, and preferences. In many aspects they are even more human than adults are, because in their truest, unbroken form they are honest, rational, extremely smart, curious, kind, and empathetic.
And until we recognize that, we’ll have adults abusing children, and security guards whose job is to protect all people but the ones that need protection the most – small, defenseless, and completely dependent
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