[Content Note: Today’s post deals with a very difficult topic, specifically child abuse. While I will do my absolute best to leave out any and all specific details in terms of the nature of various ways of abuse, there will be mention of them in any case. If you need to give today’s post a miss, definitely do so. If you decide to move forward with reading today’s post, and it brings up difficult and/or upsetting feelings for you, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline if you’re in the U.S. For those visiting from across the pond, this site will bring up resources in your local area. If you know a child who needs help, reach out to Childhelp in the U.S., as well as this network of child helplines for those across the pond. If you know of a child in immediate danger, call 911 or your area’s equivalent.]
While offbeat and wacky observances are always fun, today’s is more serious: National Be Someone Day 2021. This got its’ start as an outreach initiative of Project Harmony, and while it isn’t a formal national observance per se, it’s still important, whether or not it’s got the presidential or congressional recognition. Because this is a very serious message, I’ve decided to make today’s observance post a Special Report instead.
Child abuse is a pervasive problem, and it doesn’t discriminate in terms of who it affects. Anyone can be a victim, regardless of gender identity, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, racial identity, or locale. No matter what the differentiators are, or what it looks like, one thing’s the same: it’s wrong, and nobody deserves it.
If this is an issue that hits close to home for you, regardless of the dynamics, know that I see you and I believe you. I want you to know that what happened to you was wrong, and that you never once deserved whatever they did to you. Whatever happened to you, it wasn’t ever your fault. This is all on the person (or worse, people) who made the choice to exploit the power dynamic and harm someone else.
In the movies, the main character is either someone close to the person it’s happening to, or it’s happening to the MC themselves. We see this play out in some of the ABC Afterschool Specials, the first one being from 1983, 1985, and 1988. The first two are links to videos on YouTube, with Please Don’t Hit Me, Mom being the first one, and Don’t Touch being the second. The third one, Terrible Things My Mother Told Me, doesn’t seem to be available online anymore, so I’ve linked it to the Wikipedia article instead.
Child abuse is also a theme from time to time in the original Law and Order series, and is a recurring theme in Law and Order SVU. Without a Trace had at least one episode about it, and so did The Guardian, both of which were shows I also lived for in high school.
In the movies, we see it in Kindergarten Cop, where a kid in Mr. Kimble’s class is a victim, and Mr. Kimble finds out about it. He then beats the crap out of the perpetrator outside, which the perpetrator totally deserved. Obviously there are other movies about it, but this is what comes to mind for me at the moment. Any others that come up for you, definitely drop ’em in the comments below, and we can talk about ’em there.
There’s also books about the different ways child abuse can look like, so much so that it’s become sort of a genre inception of sorts. The one that comes to mind for me is A Child Called It. I first read it in 8th grade when I picked it up at Target. I was 13 at the time, and I swear, that book seems to be a popular read among middle school and high schoolers. I even remember, vaguely, but remember in any case, seeing Dave Pelzer on one of the talk shows when I was in elementary school. I believe it was 3rd or 4th grade when I saw it. He was talking about the book, and what I took away from it was that something bad happened to him. I was probably too young to be watching that episode, but I was waiting for my usual after-school shows to come on.
Speaking of Dave Pelzer, I got to thinking about him the other day on my bike ride home from the pool and the dollar store, and I wonder how he’s holding up these days. I know he’s gone on to become a volunteer firefighter last I checked, and I know there’s plans in the works for a movie based on his life. BTW, Dave, if you ever see this, hi!
Anyways, this is also an issue that hits closer to home for me than I care to remember or admit. For the sake of everyone involved, whether they actually did it, looked the other way, or did nothing to help, I won’t get into it or the nature of it. I will mention that it didn’t happen at my house. It happened somewhere else. In any case, it’s way too upsetting. They know who they are, they’re ancient history in my life by now, they know they done fucked up, and that’s something whatever higher power they believe in to deal with when all is said and done.
I volunteered at an elementary school as a tutor back in college, and saw at least one instance where there was emotional abuse going on. For the sake of the child it was happening to, as well as their family, I won’t say the names or gender identities. More importantly, it’s their story to tell and speak to, not mine. I remember seeing this child a total emotional wreck in the school counselor’s office, and I wanted to help so badly. Their teacher told me they were dealing with it, and the school counselor told me that there were some things going on outside of school for them that shouldn’t be.
Years later, I would learn of the terms to describe what I suspect to have been going on in that child’s life, and I still think about them. I hope they’ve found a way out of what was happening to them, and I hope that they’re able to go no contact with their perpetrator.
I also remember a former neighbor from several years ago who had kids, and I would often hear screaming coming from inside the house. The kids would behave in weird, and sometimes unlikable ways. At one point, they even engaged in law-breaking doings, and at least one of them got involved in a gang. Looking back, it was their response to what was going on in their lives behind closed doors, but I would make those phone calls to the agencies who could help them. Aside from a few visits, it didn’t appear like anything came of it.
They’ve long since moved, and so did we. I still think about the child from the school, and the former neighbor kids. Even if I wasn’t a mandatory reporter at the time, I still would’ve made that call, and have made calls regarding instances I suspect that involve kids.
I still do make those calls, both for kids and vulnerable adults, and I always will.
I know firsthand how tempting it is to intervene physically and threaten an abuser in real life. But readers, I can’t encourage you strongly enough against that.
So what can we do about it? First things first, we can learn the signs. They may not always be obvious at first, but the signs are there. Connecting the dots is the hard part, but these signs can clue us into whether or not a child is in a bad place in their lives. Not all of them will be there, but in any case, if you have a feeling that something is going on in a child’s life that shouldn’t be, make that call to the authorities or your area’s dedicated hotline.
Second of all, when a child does come forward to us about something happening to them, we should always believe them! Kids are shyt-poor liars when push comes to shove, and let’s be honest, they didn’t learn this crap from Sesame Street or Baby Shark. We should also make it clear to them that what’s happening to them is wrong, no matter what the jerk doing it to them told them or convinced them otherwise. Nobody has the right to harm anyone, children or adults, no matter what happened to them or who said whatever to them that one time.
We should also emphasize that what’s happening to the child is NEVER their fault. Nobody deserves abuse, and that includes the child who came forward with their story. Make that phone call, and if the child’s in immediate danger, contact the police as well.
Let’s all be someone to a child (or really anyone) in need of help, whether we’re mandatory reporters or not.
Over to you, readers. I know this is a lengthier post than usual, and probably a lot to take in all at once, so if you made it this far, mad props to you! Have you ever seen or witnessed abuse going on? How did you respond? Sound off below, and let’s talk.