I was asked to write a story from the perspective of a child for child abuse awareness month, using my experience as a child protection attorney and judge. So, I tried to put myself in the position of the child whose mother’s boyfriend twisted her leg like a corkscrew until it broke, the crack spiraling up her leg. I tried to look through the eyes of the toddler, right before he was shot because his mom’s boyfriend was jealous that she spent more time on the child than on the boyfriend. I thought about the last bewildered moments of the boy drowned by his father because the man thought his wife had reported his abuse of her to the police.
These are harsh images, and sadly I could fill the page with stories like this. Time after time I have been told of a violent and frightening incident between parents who then insisted that their children were asleep in bed, and not affected by the violence in the next room. Then I think back on the only fight I heard my parents have as a child. I was in bed, there was no violence, threats or curses, just raised voices, yet it still is vividly printed upon my memory. I think about the argument and escalating voices between my husband and I that was cut-off midstream as we saw the panic in our children’s eyes. Research now clearly shows that the trauma caused by seeing a parent assaulted is damaging to children and their healthy emotional and mental development. Children exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect or domestic violence in the home are more likely to struggle substance abuse and suffer increased lifetime health issues. Children who are caught up in violent dramas, where they have no power, and everything they know and love is threatened, struggle to be present in school, because they are worrying so much about what is happening at home.
Awareness and reporting of child abuse can be the difference between life and death, health and sickness of our most vulnerable segment of society. My vision? With a community that is active and aware, when I look through a child’s eyes, I will see hope.