23 May, 2008
I don't know if you have been following the whole saga of the group of Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints. Google that, plus perhaps "removing children," because I'm not up to describing the whole situation.
Now the courts have ruled that it was wrong to remove the children, that there wasn't sufficient evidence to justify taking them away. It's supposed to be a happy ending, the families reunited, everything just ducky. And I am frothing with rage.
I know that the bulk of the fury I'm feeling over this is on behalf of myself, as a child. But I don't think I'm just projecting. The assumption I see, over and over, is that the rights of parents to maintain control over their children nearly always trump the rights of the children to be safe, so long as there is reasonable evidence that the children will survive to adulthood. This is not right. It just isn't.
Yes, the I am furious over this because of my own experience. I don't think that invalidates what I want to say. So let me tell a little bit about where my own rage is coming from.
At least once during my childhood, someone called children's services. They came, investigated, and determined that there was nothing going on, or at least, nothing that required intervention. But they were wrong. I know for certain that there was physical abuse (it did stop short of breaking bones), emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect (I'm ambivalent on that one, since some of the neglect was unavoidable given my mother's lack of resources).
But because children's services determined that the kids in the household were likely to survive to adulthood, we were left there, and there was no other intervention.
And this just increased my parents' ability to continue with what they were doing. They punished me for having said things at school that led to the investigation (I'm unclear as to what, exactly happened at school; my memory is that I said something, not even realizing it was a huge red flag for abuse, and a teacher called it in.) And what I learned was, no one was going to intervene. What was happening to me at home was justified. For reasons I really did not understand, I deserved the things that happened, just as my siblings must deserve the things that happened to them.
It was a hard thing to figure out, particularly as I got older. When I was not quite twelve, and my youngest brother was not quite two, my stepfather was taking care of him, and beat him black and blue, from the middle of his thighs up to his lower back. And it was hard for me to see that this was justified, because what the h*ll could a toddler do, to deserve that? His crime? Not laying down to take his nap.
The thing is, the response within the family was largely that it had been wrong to do that, not because it is wrong to beat a child, but because my youngest brother had a heart problem and didn't get spanked like that. I mean, no one ever said that it was wrong to beat *any* toddler that severely. The only reason my brother shouldn't have gotten that "spanking" was because he was sickly.
I tend to shy away from describing my childhood as a time of unalleviated horror. It wasn't only horrible. And in many ways, my family did love me.
Would I want to have not spent my childhood with them? I really don't know. I can't imagine who I would be, or what my childhood would have been like, without that thread of abuse. I don't know who I would be, if that hadn't happened. Maybe it did make me stronger, or at least, more fierce in my anger at people who are treating children badly. It definitely made me more determined to succeed in school, because that was the only way I could imagine escaping: to get into a college on the other end of the country. But I'm pretty smart. I'm willing to bet that, even without the abuse, I probably would have been able to succeed in school. Heck, I might have done better, had I been responsible for less at home, had I been able to sleep soundly at night.
I'm not saying I don't love my family. In spite of all that was bad, there was also good. I do love them, and I wouldn't want to have had all contact cut off. But what happened was not ok. And when I see similar things happening, or the possibility of similar things happening, I am livid. The burden of proof should rest on the ones who are more powerful, to prove that they are not being abusive. Nobody, nobody has a right to abuse someone else.
What is more, having spent my adult life trying to understand that what happened to me when I was growing up was not justified, I shudder for the kids in these households. I was able to escape, because for all of her flaws, my mother also had times when she encouraged me to think for myself, and to protect myself (odd, from a woman who also would beat me harder if I tried to protect myself from her; strange, from a woman who felt it was right for her to have a full adult relationship with her teenaged daughter). And I spent enough time at school, around people who showed me a different way of living, that the thought was able to enter my head, "This is not right. This does not have to be happening." It was a very quiet thought, for a very long time. But it was there, enough that I could imagine escaping.
But the kids in the FLDS compound? They are being told that not only do their parents believe this is right, deserved, what they should do. They are being told that God ordains this. They do not have contact with anyone who is not a member of that sect.
Ok. So the court doesn't want to separate the children from their parents. Then they had damn sure better make certain they are keeping tabs, offering other thoughts, both to the children and their parents. But nothing I know about how children's services works, or how the negotiation between the rights of parents and the rights of children happens, leads me to believe that there will be any surveillance. The court has determined that these children are likely to survive to adulthood, so they are on their own.
And the message they are getting from this, in part, is that what is happening is justified; that when an adult tells them something is ordained by God, or is for the children's own good, or any of that garbage, then the children will believe that to be true. Because they have no evidence that says anything different.
22 May, 2008
the one today... she came out as my therapist was talking about how the rules and structure are a bad idea, and how we should stop because it just seems to generate testing (by the way: this is the first time she has ever said this; before, she was all for the rules, although she was a little doubtful about the spanking, but didn't seem to object beyond wanting to be sure it wasn't abusive.)
so then the other part came out. and was talking about how she just needs to learn to stop expecting people to help, because they pretty much aren't going to. that she should be willing to accept that other people will do things when it is easy, or if they see it as part of their job, but aren't going to help her to feel better. what did she want/need to hear? that it is a good thing to look for help, and she does not need to cope on her own. but my therapist was saying that she DOES need to stand on her own (i don't *think* in the same way this part was thinking, but i have nothing to prove that wasn't what she meant.)
the therapy session ended with that part saying she just wanted to understand what was wrong with her, that kept her from deserving help. my therapist said she would help her to understand what was wrong that kept her from deserving help. i'm pretty sure, once again, that my therapist didn't mean the same thing that part heard, but... there it is. and now that part is pretty much at the point of quitting therapy, because she has put this together with other things my therapist has said to mean that she (my therapist) basically wants us to suck it up and just convince ourselves that things are different than they are.
then, after therapy, a friend called. he wanted to talk about having picked up his new car, but that part was out really strongly, and was feeling ready for rejection at the drop of a hat. the friend commented that i/she sounded sad, she said "therapy," he said, "oh, ok. just wanted to tell you about picking up my new car. we can talk later." now, i figure he was respecting my space, and not intruding. i figure, had she said she wanted to talk, and needed some support, he would have been glad to do it. but what did she take from it? that people don't want her around when she is not doing well, and only want to talk to her if she is listening to them talk about what is going on in their lives.
i wish she had subtitles or a voiceover or something, letting people know what she is really saying when she says things. because what keeps happening is that a bunch of parts come out, and test people, and somehow, people keep confirming their negative beliefs.
21 May, 2008
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