Questions behind cries for help
Part of my nature is to be inquisitive — my most common question being “Why?”
In the position I am in at the kitchen, I find that my questioning brings me endless reasons to ask why. This week was no different.
“I grew up with a couple of aunties and a grandma,” she started in response to my “Why?”
“They used to beat me and treat me bad, especially when they were drinking, and then social services came and put me in a foster home.”
Before she carried on with her tale, my heart already was beginning to sink with a hated déjà vu moment, but I had to hear her out.
“From the age of seven until I was 14, my foster dad sexually used and abused me.
“Nobody listened when I told them he was doing that and now you know why I don’t trust anybody — I just put a phoney smile on my face and laugh a phoney laugh and make it look like I’m enjoying life; alcohol, drugs and all.”
Of course I can’t quit at that point, so I asked her what she felt about the whole situation now that she was about 22 or 24.
“Like I was in the wrong and that I deserved it.”
The statement came out of her mouth so fast, that I could sense that she actually did feel that way.
“The suicide prevention people gave me a lot of help.”
Whenever I speak with someone about a hurtful part of life, one of the ways that I feel tells me they are being truthful is that their voice loses all animation and becomes totally monotone, and that’s what was happening with this young lady.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about suicide at least half a dozen times in that day.”
It is usually after a comment like that that my brain kicks out of gear and I drift in neutral for a while, to collect my thoughts, and that’s not easy for me, because the information I have just received is so overwhelming.
The “Whys” become “In heavens name, why?” Sometimes it makes me ashamed to be a man, especially when I hear and read about the numbers of incidents of abuse of children.
So common are these stories now that they have solicited comments like, “Just another abuse,” or even “She probably led him on.”
Gone is the feeling of horror at the news; about the same as the thousands of starving children throughout the world.
For me, the questions just don’t stop.
Why does a man abuse a child who has been placed in his care?
As a matter of fact, why does anyone placed in a position of trust so readily violate that trust?
Being male, I am more than aware of influences that a man faces on a daily basis, and I’m as subject to wrongful influences as anyone, but thankfully the training I received from my parents and the community we lived in makes me pull myself up short when the thoughts in my head go too far, and I believe the majority of men are the same.
But the thing all of society is guilty of is that we pay very little attention to the subtly desperate cries coming from the hearts of children who are calling out for help when they are being abused.
This abuse is always very well hidden and done in secret or just out of view, and even more difficult to prove.
But when a child is abused, they do give off subtle signs of their hurts, or in the above case not subtle at all.
Then we just have to become wiser in being able to read, and respond to these signs. We all have to become involved, not just social services.
I am not ignorant, and I know that many if not most of these incidents will fall through the cracks, but if we can detect and prevent just one such an event, we will have won a victory.
Chris Salomons is kitchen co-ordinator for Potter’s Hands ministry in Red Deer.