I have been thinking about writing this post for a while now. It is close to my heart for many reasons. As I write to you I am sitting on a wooden deck listening to the birds sing and wondering how to slow down, wondering what my own perfect answer for my soul to land on might be.
This April is Child Abuse Awareness month. Working in the schools and at the barn and knowing close friends I know the story of child abuse varies depending on the person. Every child knows what it is like to be hurt by people close to them who love them. Some are fortunate enough to experience repair to those hurts from the caregivers that dealt them. We are human and we hurt each other in many ways. But some children experience deep scars that breaks trust in everyone, including themselves and the universe.
There are a lot of stigmas on kids who experience abuse and signs to look for, but why I am writing this is for a different reason. I want to give voice to the children who slip through the cracks of every system including their own eyes as adults. I want to plead the case for the ones who hear everyone else’s voices and still fall asleep at sixty wondering what theirs sounds like, because they never knew, because no ever saw that part of their soul. The part they hide in being a strong fortress for the tears of others.
The children we need to make sure are also heard are the ones who excel in school, come dressed in clean clothes, sing in the church choir, play soccer, have several friends, and make every one laugh with their silly humor. These are the children that often slip under the radar. Sometimes they don’t even know what is happening to them because they are the bell of the ball, able to smile, school is easy, and the words of the parents are trusted, “You are so lucky to live here, there are so many children whose parents don’t care for them.”
I have found that children can be abused by the very parent who watches the news and rages against the injustice of a mother who locked her child in a cage. I have found that there are deep, manipulative twisted words and ways of love that can deceive and defy even the most common sensed people.
In this month we need to be aware that sometimes the abuser is the parent who is a beloved school-teacher who calls Child Protection Services on the job, sometimes it is the brother who is the gentleman in high school standing up for the girls, who plays the trumpet or dedicates free time to The Lions Club volunteering. The abuser can be a sister who is silent and beautiful, teaching Vacation Bible School, or it can be the father who works long hours at the Construction site, teaches his daughter to ride a bike, and tells the best jokes.
We don’t know what people are struggling with, we don’t know what they do. We don’t know. We can’t always know. We can’t always trust. This is not to scare you, we all know this anyways. We know it can be the Pastor, the school librarian, or the high school sibling.
Here is the ugly truth it can be mother to daughter or son, father to daughter or son, brother to sister or brother, sister to brother or sister. There is no exemption in the ways we can be hurt and who does it. It can be a whole family. It can be friends of the family or anyone. It can be anywhere from emotional, mental, physical, or sexual abuse, or all of them.
Why I am writing this is I passionately want us to remember that when we see a child and say, “Now that one is going places, and she makes us have hope in good parenting.” We need to remember to look very deeply in those children for what they may not be saying. Yes there are families and children like that, but we need to remember not to as we say, “Judge a book by its cover.”
There are little girls whose mothers volunteer in their class rooms and dress them in cute dresses, take them to church and say I love you to the moon and back who also tell them they are going to a mental institute for yelling shut up one time, who silently year after year can pluck away pieces of their souls with inconsistency and swinging back and forth between a hug and you are so beautiful to you are a selfish brat and slap them.
I won’t keep going, this is heavy enough. We all know that we don’t really know. Just try to be more attentive to the silent well behaved children as well. They also have stories of wounds that need to be tended and lies unraveled.
Thank you for reading, I hope you each find solace in this month and courage for facing the unknowns.