“On the night of October 7th, 2005, the lives of Peter D’Souza and Elizabeth D’Souza were changed forever when they discovered that their thirteen year old son, Kevin had committed suicide by hanging.
Traumatized by the horrific and tragic situation they’d been thrown into, the parents of Kevin searched desperately for answers as to why their son would feel so lost, that he felt suicide was his only option.
Kevin had been described as a lovely child, who was able to always make people smile. Why such a sweet and happy seeming child would commit suicide, was a huge mystery to all.
And here’s the truth, the bitter narration which will leave you all in a bitter taste. Kevin was a victim of intense bullying from his schoolmates leading him to confess a fear of going back to school. His parents advocated the seemingly-reasonable approach of talking to the principal, an idea opposed by Kevin who feared it would make matters worse. However, unbeknownst to his parents, the bullying continued. Comments were made about his sexuality and even his close friends joined in telling others he was no less than a joker. It was ultimately too much for Kevin to bear and he killed himself at the tender age of thirteen”.
“There was yet another case of a young teenage girl taking out her life being a victim of cyber bullying. She was found hanging in her bedroom by her sister with the legs dangling and the ghastly eyes open, the teenager was a very bubbly girl who fall prey to a sick mind who abused her online, hid behind a mask of anonymity and attacked this vulnerable teenager to an extent of taking her life”.
“Bekon Smith committed suicide by walking into the path of a truck. Prior to the incident, she had scheduled a post on her public Tumbler page to go live after her death. In her final message, Bekon stated “my death has to mean something”. She wrote about her struggles as a young transgender teen, detailing her wish to live as a woman with her parents, who had denied her request, claiming it to be an insult to God. The post broke the hearts of thousands of readers, who actively shared the message in order to publicize the tragedy. After her death, Bekon’s mother still refused to use female pronouns for her daughter and would only refer to her by her given name of Bekon. She also refused to allow Bekon’s best friend, who had supported her decision to live as a woman, to attend the funeral”
The above case studies are our attempt to raise awareness on the issue of suicide of children and teens.
Suicide is a difficult subject to address. There are far too many tragic stories of people who felt the only way to escape their troubles were to take their own lives. When the people at the center of these events are children, the dreadful emotions we feel are amplified. Well hear the truth there are much more of the shocking motives and piteous stories of children who ended their own lives, horrifically from as young as 6 years old!
Suicide among teens and children often happens after a stressful life event, such as problems at school, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a major family conflict. So it’s important for parents to know the warning signs so teens who might be suicidal can get the help they need. Some adults feel that kids who say they are going to hurt or kill themselves are “just doing it for attention.” It’s important to realize that if teens are ignored when seeking attention; it may increase the chance of them harming themselves (or worse).
Keep a close eye on a child who is depressed and withdrawn. Understanding depression in teens is very important since it can look different from commonly held beliefs about depression. For example, it may take the form of problems with friends, grades, sleep, or being cranky and irritable rather than chronic sadness or crying. It’s important to try to keep the lines of communication open and express your concern, support, and love. If your teen confides in you, show that you take those concerns seriously. A fight with a friend might not seem like a big deal to you in the larger scheme of things, but for a child/teen it can feel immense and consuming. It’s important not to minimize or discount what your teen/child is going through, as this can increase his or her sense of hopelessness.
Most teens interviewed after making a suicide attempt say that they did it because they were trying to escape from a situation that seemed impossible to deal with or to get relief from really bad thoughts or feelings.
There’s a thin difference between child and teen suicide. Child suicides aren’t like teen or adult suicides, which usually start with an idea, proceed with a plan, and end with action. Suicide among children is more likely to be spontaneous and less connected to psychiatric disorder or aggression. This is often reflected in the method: Instead of hanging or cutting or using a gun, “suicidal” kids tend to kill themselves by doing things their parents have warned them against, such as running into traffic or jumping out of a window. Children who kill themselves often have a mood disorder, ADHD, or a “conduct disorder,” which basically means antisocial behavior. Living an in abusive household can lay the groundwork for suicidal behavior, and an incident like getting kicked out of school or a dying relative can trigger it.
Often parents discuss death; suicide etc in front of children, what they don’t realize is that it can create a deep impact on the immature mind. Do not discuss these dark topics in front of the child/teen. They are too young and vulnerable to understand. The child might think it as a fun and even before you realize the child is gone the same was the American child smothered himself to death trying to fidget with the hook that hung his shirt.
Please raise awareness, please stop suicide among children and teens for you won’t realize how much it feels to be sad every single day without your child even when you experience joy, for it’s the goodbyes which hurt the most when the stories aren’t finished, for you parent will never understand until it happens with you, for it’s the child you will miss when you are breathing.
Save a Child, save the Nation. Make the world a better place to live.
Note: These are case studies, name changed to protect identity
Subject to Copyright
Jeeya was gleefully playing when Emmy screamed “Look the blood, it’s down your thighs”. All of a sudden the two children were surrounded by their classmates. All were curious. Jeeya felt helpless. Her little feet had droplets of blood somewhat maroon shade. She felt she had been bitten by some bug. There was a knot in her stomach too. All she needed was her parents. Little did she know or could understand that she was now a full grown woman!
Jeeya’s story is not an unique one. Many kids of her age go through the same experience daily. And thanks to all the endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) present in food stuff for early menarche. These chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment, and are considered by scientists to be a significant public health concern. Although EDCs are thought to pose a threat to adults as well, children’s bodies are more sensitive to exposure to exogenous hormones.
Jeeya’s mother had a tough time dealing with the child. From a bawdy child she withdrew herself, she developed a heightened sense of self awareness and she showed signs of insecurity, she thought she was abnormal, she developed acnes. The mother had to take her to the dermatologist.
Australian researchers have found that children who go through early puberty are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems. The study from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne has found 21% of girls and 19% of boys go through puberty as young as eight years old. While girls who hit the early puberty suffer from emotional problems; the boys experience more of behavioral problems. The age that teenagers begin puberty has dropped around the world, though doctors are not sure why, they say there’s an awful lot to be known about early puberty. As puberty marks a transition for a whole range of mental health problems, behavioral problems, and problems like self-harm, eating disorders, social digression etc.
Here are a 5 tips for parents to prepare kids for puberty:
1.Preparing for the first event: It’s probably best to avoid “The Talk” about menarche. Instead, try to spread it out into lots of smaller conversations — education about how the human body works, about the body parts. The privates are always a curiosity for kids. Kids reaching puberty should already know what’s going to happen to their bodies. As kids attain menarche early these days, it is advisable to start discussions in steps right from the time they are 9-10 years old, or earlier based on the maturity level.
2. The explanation – Parents need to explain puberty in a positive way. That it’s part of physiological working of the body. And that there is nothing wrong in having periods. Parents must pay attention to the child’s group of friends. There are many good reasons to do so. Sometimes, kids fall prey to misleading information.
3. Love and support – Parents need to love and support their children more than usual when they go through puberty. Studies show that children who have warm relationships with their parents have fewer anxieties and depression. And suggest to parents to never forget to use that old verbal substitute for physical affection that never goes out of style, the “I love you” words.
4. Nutrition and wellbeing – Children’s diets should include a wide variety of natural plant foods as possible including, green vegetables, squashes, corn, carrots, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, avocados, beans, fruits and whole grains. All they require is a healthy, well balanced diet. They should be encouraged to carry on with regular exercises, and normal daily schedule as much as possible.
5. Taking care of hygiene – Parents should list out the good and bad hygiene habits – clearly tell them what is considered good and healthy, and what is bad or unhealthy. Repeat it as many times as possible in different situations.
For all parents who are reading my blog, please remember “The limbic system explodes during puberty, but the prefrontal cortex keeps maturing for another 10 years for it’s a traumatic process which the children can’t realize.”
Yesterday visited our pediatrician for giving vaccine to my one year old son. When we were waiting to meet the doctor, a girl (should be 8 years) and her mom (in her 30’s) entered the clinic. I recognized them. They live in the same apartment. I have seen them in some community events but have not spoken so far. The girl was unusually silent and she was simply starring at my son who was playing with his toy car. The lady seemed busy with her phone.
My son accidentally hit the lady’s legs, and was about to fall. I picked my son and said “sorry”. She gave a friendly smile and said “no issues” and asked “Is this doctor good? This is the first visit for us” and added “My daughter has become very shy now-a-days. She looks tired always, and very silent. In school also her teachers have started complaining that she needs to improve on confidence. Some of my colleagues suggested that this doctor may help. That’s the reason we are here.” I replied “Yes I am very happy with this doctor, and added that I personally know him for the past 7 years”. After this much discussion, the attendant called our number. My son was given the vaccine. The doctor suggested that we wait for half an hour there. He wanted to observe my son.
Next the mom and her daughter that I talked about went inside. After 15 to 20 minutes, they came out of the chamber. The mother looked thoughtful after the consultation. The doctor told me “Spend at least 15 to 20 minutes with your daughter daily. Play/chat or at least listen to her. Otherwise, she will become silent, shy”.
This thought kept nudging me and I was thinking, “Where do we get time, Work – Life Balance – Not only parents, Kids are also busy in school, extra curricular activities, home work, projects, etc.”. To clarify myself started reading different articles and all of them confirmed that spending quality time with kids is very important to develop self confidence in them. And time with parents is an indicator for growth in to a cheerful kid.
Parents are the first teachers to every child. They trust their parents. They mimic them, and learn a lot from them. They look up to them as role models. Their habits, their likes and dislikes are most influenced by their parents. The same is true for children’s interests, their religious faith, their attitudes about learning and interest in other people, even the words that they learn. Parents have the most influence on all these things. It’s sobering, but true, that these determine how successful children will be in school and in life ahead.
Every parent try their best to provide the best education, nutrition, and environment to their children. However, one simple truth is often overlooked: Children from birth to adulthood need time and attention of their parents. The importance of this time is multi-fold. It helps in bonding. The child feels secure and important with this time called “love”. He or she gets an opportunity to model parent’s behavior. Also, the parent can observe and learn about the child’s strengths and weaknesses in order to better guide him. The child has a chance to voice his thoughts and feelings.
The time parents spend with children now will pay big dividends for the rest of their lives. Because children spell love as T-I-M-E. Multiple studies reveal that children are much more likely to develop emotional and behavioral disorders when they receive inadequate or poor parenting. Each study suggests the foundation of spending quality time with children as the first vital step to successful parenting. There are innumerable ways to spend activities with kids. Listed few of them to get started :
Outdoor activities including Cycling, walking, etc
Family meal time
Art / Craft activities
I request the readers to pull out half an hour from your schedule and invest with your kids. This should be tried irrespective of your circumstances. Trust me this is going to multiply in terms of success of your child in future. Children spell love as T-I-M-E!
It was the interview day for Ryan’s school. Ryan is just 3 years old. He loves to play with colors. In his imagination house, a green colored flower is more meaningful than a green leaf. A yellow bird makes him more happy than a blue/green/black/or orange one. He loves to postmortem all his toys to find out the secret machine inside. Overall, he is an active boy. His parents oriented him very well on ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ at the school. The Principal welcomes the family. They were seated with two more teachers. After a brief introduction, the test starts for the prospective student. ‘What’s your name beta?’- Ryan Patil. As the Principal gets busy talking to his parents about their profession etc, one teacher gives him colors to paint the picture of a dog. Ryan picks his favorite red crayon and starts painting. The teachers stare at him for a while, the parents smell the blunder! They get worried that Ryan might not get admission at the school.
What is wrong with Ryan? Why did he paint the dog with ‘red’ crayon? Is it odd or inappropriate? Well, there are two possible answers for that!
1. Therapists often use color analysis as a means of determining a child’s emotional state. A lot of black or red recurring in a child’s drawing is indicated as a troublesome sign. Black is often an indication of sad state of mind. Red may indicate anger. Blues and greens are usually calm colors. Yellows and oranges often indicate cheerfulness. It is usually not a concern if a child does one drawing in one of the troublesome colors.
2. Children’s drawings are no cause of alarm, despite color choice or content. They are merely artistic expressions and may present a variety of emotions, representations, and themes that are explored and then discarded.
I learnt about Ryan from a post at LinkedIn. Ryan reminded me of another incident. My younger sister acted like a deaf and dumb child during her interview to Montessori school. As she was taken to my school, teachers gave her three chances to speak. All the times, she acted the same. That evening she had a confession to make. The confession that she was worried some thieves might take our mom if she goes to school. As mom would be ‘alone’ at home. And that’s why she had acted deaf and dumb! She missed her chance of admission at my school, but we had to respect her state of mind.
Whether it is the red dog, or the thieves; a child’s imagination knows no bounds. Sometimes creativity has much to do with state of mind and little to do with age. Kids read stories, watch cartoons, and observe things around them. Ryan must have read a bed time story about ‘The Red Dog‘. My sister might have been too possessive and thoughtful about leaving mom alone at home.
Children just go by their imagination and there is nothing wrong. Every child has his creative angle to look at things and it is no necessary to be rational. Parents should take it as a part of creativity and learning.
Our Ryans’ will surely find their places at schools that would foster their creative potentials!
*Acrostic Poem: SELF ESTEEM
Sitting there pondering
Every flaw she sees
Little does she know
From everyone else’s point of view
Each part of her is truly beautiful
So much of what girls think of themselves
Tends to come from fashion magazines
Each girl there displayed in stunning glory
Even though much of them is phoney, a
Misinterpreted sense of true and lasting beauty
*Acrostic Poem – a poem in which the first letters of the lines spell a word (s), most often the subject of the poem.
Aarif – The Child who suffered the worst kind of sad unable to explain why
Just another day Tabassum was busy with her kitchen chores when she heard Aarif nagging his father “Please come home early today. Close your shop on time, we will do our lessons together”.
To get a better view let me explain: Aarif is a boy of eight. Has an elder sister Aadila of ten. Tabassum is his mother. And there’s her husband. I refrain from naming him as he is just a special character in this narration.
That evening the mother and the two kids waited. The father never returned. He left without a trace. Days turned to weeks. Weeks to months. Months to a year and then here it goes:
Tabassum embraced a stoic silence. The two children hung to her seeking her attention and begging that she listens to them. To love them. To cook for them. All the mother could do was to stare – a lifeless stare. Aadila tried her best to deal with the trauma of losing her father, dealing with her mother, taking care of her brother. Aarif, though, was going through something else. He chose loneliness. At times, he was cranky, at others he felt guilty. At times he felt hopeless, at others he was just sad. Aadila tried telling him stories he loved, tried to feed him but he would choose to cry. The sad tears without ever explaining the reason why?
A year passed by when Aarif’s body was recovered from the nearby well. Let’s not get into the details, or what how Aadila and Tabassum dealt with that. Let’s focus on Aarif.
Depression is what Aarif suffered from. Everyone feels blue now and then. But most of the time it lasts just a few days and goes away on its own. Depression is different. It gets in the way of your daily life and makes it harder to do the things you love. It calls for treatment or else it creates havoc and life goes into a spin. Life events are to be blamed for sure, something disturbing that happens may trigger depression. It may be the loss of someone close, a difficult relationship, or a stressful situation. Other things, like one’s finances, where one lives, and whether or not one is married may also have an impact. But, there doesn’t have to be a “reason” for depression. Sometimes it happens without an obvious cause.
We all know Winston Churchill. Yes you are hearing right. He suffered from depression and called it “Black Dog”. Maureen Harrison from London College of Clinical Hypnosis International has beautifully narrated a case study of Mrs. N who battled depression. Look I am losing track, I was here to discuss depression of that little boy Aarif and landed up with Winston Churchill and Maureen Harrison. Will I ever learn a lesson?
Being an Indian, I don’t know much about west but here in India to hide your mental illness is the best. You can be a diabetic, you can have cancer, but you cannot be mentally ill. What did Aarif know about life? He had so much to give to the world instead he chose the well. He sulked for days together, stayed lonely, wept, felt empty, anxious but he couldn’t explain. What a family needs to understand is there is something wrong with the person when they see these signs. It calls for immediate medical attention in the same way we run to medicos when we have a blood pressure or a simple flu.
Depression is a dark place. The victims choose silence and refuse to seek help. I am no medico, neither a master in dealing depression but I am here to just make a point. Let’s join our hands to help the victims recover from this illness. It’s different, time consuming, needs several sessions of counseling with added medications. And of course, self work is necessary and that can only be done when that person realizes he is depressed and is in need of help.
I don’t want to bore the readers by my repeated speech on depression. I leave the narration with a message:
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself – I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you never thought you could. And that no one is perfect – that’s why a pencil has an eraser”
Let’s fight depression.
Disclaimer: It’s a case study and names have been changed to protect identity.
Subject to copyright.
The other day we were waiting for our order of parathas at a highway dhaba. The place was quite crowded with young couples with small kids. They were mostly seated in groups. The long weekend rush was quite visible as most of the tables were full. The dhaba workers were quite busy taking down the orders, and satisfying the need of the guests. We were seated next to the table occupied by two families, two couples with two young boys. The elder kid would be around 6 years old, and the younger one must be only 4.
There was a huge neem tree providing shade to all of us. The tree bore lots of fruits. They were yellowish in color and looked yummy. Birds were fondly enjoying the fruits. Many had fallen on the ground also. I obsrved those as I had not seen such ripe neem fruits earlier. Suddenly, I heard the 6 year old asking his mom for permission to taste the fruit “I want to explore the fruit!” He had picked up a fruit from the ground around.
“I want to explore the fruit”- he asked his mom first, then dad, then the uncle, and finally showed it to the younger kid! Readers can you guess why I am writing this as a story?
-Because the kid approached 3 adults, and the adults were very in deep discussions. Not even a single adult listened to the kid. And yes, he was clear, spoke in a tone and language that was audible to me, to the person seated on the next table. The kid also approached the younger boy. He boy was also busy playing with his toy car, and didnot show any sign of active listening. In the mean time, the dhaba representative got their order. This disruppted the serious, active discussion of the adults. The mom called the kid. He went and sat next to his mon. He kept the fruit on the table near his plate. He was playing with the fruit, and at the same time grabbing his lunch.
-They say “One can tell a child something a million times, but the one time they actually listen is the only time that really matters!” The questions that bothered me for sometime:
1. What if the kid had consumed the fruit? Well, neem fruits are not toxins. But any substance when taken in excess is a toxin. What if the kid had consumed lots of those fruits. He was really in to it. Luckily, his attention was diverted by the arrival of their order.
2. What if the kid learns not to take permissions? What if he feels that parents anyway do not actively listen? Well, it may be an isolated incidence. May be the parents meet their friends after a long time, and were really concentrating on the discussions. May be they didn’t think that their kid will grab something random from the ground. And would love to explore that!
3. Why am I writing this? Is this not a small thing? Everyone makes mistakes in life, but that doesn’t mean they have to pay for them the rest of their life. It doesn’t mean they are bad. It means they are human. And humans need reminders. In this case, its a reminder to be more responsible as parents. As such a small thing can lead to a huge parenting mistake. Kids trust adults, so its the responsibility of parents to help them adhere to the trust by “Responding appropriately”. We often think children don’t understand, but they do. A lot more than we imagine. When we listen, we show them we care and empathize with them.
As the kid was happily eating his food, I bid him good-bye. I left the place with an important reminder. The reminder that I too have a teen! Whether someone else has observed me?
With Dilated pupils, involuntary tremors, teeth clenching, he was all time high with his regular shots when I first met Rohan a boy in his early teens.
-“In which standard Rohan”, I ask but get a deafening silence… I take a quick peek on him to find he had soiled his shorts which he hadn’t even realized. My heart sank a little; I swallow a gradually increasing lump in my throat and again dare to ask…
-“Look Rohan I am here to help you, be a good boy, and please open up to me!”
There was a ghastly quietude and then he speaks in a hoarse voice “You aren’t my friend, my mother pushed me to you, you are ugly, you are exactly like my mother, in fact you are like a sorceress, I have failed promoting myself to standard nine, my mouth is dry, I need my cannabis or else I will smother you”
-I battled my demons with an increased thumping in my heart I counter “What did your mother do and what about your father?”
With a gradually increased blood shot eyes Rohan finally mumbles “My father has no time but gives me my bucks, he comes home late in the night, sometimes he doesn’t turn up for days, sometimes he comes and just dozes off”,
-“And your mum Rohan?” I again push the little boy.
“I have no mum; I have several mums, not one but a dozen mums who want me, you get that stupid woman another nasty mum, that one mum of mine is too busy with herself and so are my father’s share of those several mommies, my mum denies me money, she asks me to study, she fights with my dad whenever he comes home, she cries, she drinks, then she calls her friends and party all night” answers Rohan with an increasing pitch in his voice and continues “My house is no home, there are people without life, they look happy but unhappy, there are servants but no work, there are expensive gadgets but none to use them, I sleep alone, I had been asked to be independent, I am free to do any goddamn thing, my dad pays me when I ask, sometimes I pick from his wallet when he isn’t around, I also drink from his bottles, it keeps me sane, but mum I hate her, why can’t she love me, why can’t she stop whining, I have lost all my friends, I don’t like to talk to one, I just want those shots”.
-“From where did you get them?”, I ask with an increased anxiety.
“It’s so easy, I got it from Sonia, she too has the same problem but now she has found a way to heal herself, and now I am healing myself too”, Rohan replies before collapsing.
Did I hear healing; this boy is out to ruin himself. A broken home is all he has. Cannot distinguish weed and flower. Whom shall I pity, Rohan, his mother, his father or the list of all the other mothers his father brings home or the society. Have I turned a story teller, making gossips out of painful narratives, no I am not, I am a mother, a mother to that little boy Rohan.
But how do I help him? My share of coteries can you answer on my behalf?
Substance abuse at a tender age is misdemeanor and even before the parents realize the child had already ruined him/her. The parenting starts at home, the parents are the first teachers, all the child need is an unconditional love and proper guidance to life.
Children can’t help but feel trapped in the midst of this ugly fight between adults. Talk it over a tortured mind is the worst. What’s the point of living in constant strife? Take the plunge, if you think it’s absolutely necessary. Even if there’s no domestic abuse involved, a general area of tension might exist between partners. This is equally pervasive. In spite of evidence of high conflict everywhere there’s a better way of doing it. A child is quick to notice that something is amiss. When one partner comes home, the other responds with a stony silence. His or her body language changes.
The child wonders, “Is someone going to get hurt? Will I be forced to take sides?” Rather than let things spiral, the parents must sit down with their child and make the cause of tension clear to him. The child should be told, “It’s not about you. It’s about us.”
People often fear telling their children the entire truth. Under these circumstances is honesty really a virtue. Parents should sit together and discuss their differences. Conscious effort has to be made to veer away from the blame game even if it’s an extra marital affair.
Rohan took to drugs to heal himself, destroying rather. He couldn’t deal the trauma of deformed fights of his parents. The mother has sent him to me to cure him his addictions, but why hasn’t the mother being an adult tried to protect her own prodigy by sorting out the differences with her partner and why is the father so generous in paying Rohan? Where is he trying to run? Isn’t he equally punishable? The parents have robbed him of his childhood; the boy is out to savage himself and now when he is finished the mother wants me to save him. Oh really? Is that so easy dear mother of Rohan? I leave the narration for our so called civilized adults to learn a lesson but with a message:
“Drugs kill the pain, and the joy, and the hope, and the body, and the brain and finally the soul. If you are silent about your pain they will kill you and say you have enjoyed it. We’re all made to make mistakes, nobody is perfect but we can always learn and save a life. Aspire to inspire before you expire”.
Disclaimer: It’s a case study and names have been changed to protect identity.
Child Abuse – A gruesome offense
All children around the world, both boys and girls, have the right to grow up free from the fear of physical and sexual violence, hunger, exploitation and oppression. Adults have an overriding responsibility to ensure children have the opportunity to thrive in a nurturing environment that enables them to achieve their almost infinite potential. This can only become a reality when children’s basic needs for love, protection, food, education and health care are met to a satisfactory level.
These are fundamental, universal rights that we all deserve as human beings, and should be seen as such. But sadly, for far too many children, the very basic requirements for physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing aren’t met. Many thousands of children live in fear of exploitation and abuse; they go hungry, they lack a secure home, education, adequate health care, protection, and that simply isn’t good enough. It’s far from acceptable in today’s word. It really is that simple. These children are failed by society and those in positions of power, and endure experiences that no child should ever suffer.
Changing that situation for the better should be a major and urgent priority for all governments in every part of the globe. Nothing matters more. Shout it out. Make your views clear. There’s no room for excuses. No room for failure. Hold your elective representatives and law makers to account. Countries are defined by how they treat their most vulnerable members. If we fail the vulnerable, it shames us all.
Before becoming a writer I worked as a child protection social worker and manager in the UK for around twenty years. During this time I investigated hundreds of cases of child abuse, and was often left incredulous as to the harm the offending adults chose to inflict on vulnerable children. Adults should possess an instinctive responsibility to protect children, which seems blatantly obvious, and despite all I’ve seen and all I know, I still find it difficult to comprehend that not everybody appreciates or accepts that basic responsibility. Some adults are inadequate as parents, some fail to cope due to difficult circumstances or ill health, but others, the vast majority men, choose to harm children for their own deviant, criminal sexual gratification. Such crimes are far more common than most people realize, and require a proactive, planned and well-resourced response by the various agencies responsible for protecting children from abuse.
In the UK, the Social Services Department has lead responsibility, and well trained social workers work closely with the police to investigate cases in consultation with education, legal and health services. Investigations are followed by multiagency child protection case conferences that decide if a child is at risk. If they are, their names will be added to the Child Protection Register, and a child protection plan agreed, which clearly defines the specific protective responsibilities of all the professionals involved. I was responsible for chairing these meetings in West Wales while heading up child protection services for the county. The approach has had a good deal of success, but much still needs to be done. There is no room for complacency on the part of parents or professionals as the number of cases, the growth of sex trafficking, and the proliferation of child pornography on the World Wide Web clearly demonstrates only too well. It’s important to remember that these aren’t just photographs. Every image is of a child victim. They are depictions of serious crimes against the innocent. Children in need of help. Offending adults whose actions demand investigation and justice.
Sexual abuse is a major problem in all parts of the world. My first book, White is the Coldest Color, reflects that abhorrent reality. I wrote it at least in part to draw attention to the curse of sexual abuse; the potentially devastating physical, psychological and behavioral effects on victims, and the devious, manipulative methods adopted by predatory offenders whose life choices are often driven by their deviant sexual tastes and desires. Protecting children from such unfortunate experiences and the punishment of their abusers must be the first aim, but providing appropriate therapy and support for survivors is also crucial. They are never in any way responsible for their suffering. The abuser is always culpable. Always guilty. Their victims bare no blame. Never! Not in any circumstances. It’s essential to recognize that fact and accept it one hundred per cent. There is no room for debate. No room for doubt.
I cite a case study : Our County was the first in the UK to successfully investigate a paedophile ring, with long prison sentences for six offenders. White is the Coldest Color is entirely fictional, but draws heavily on those experiences. It is a dark and potentially disturbing book in nature, shocking in part, because the abuse of children is shocking. I make no apologies for that fact. Society shouldn’t hide from such things. The more we know of sexual predators methods, the better equipped we are to protect children from their vile attentions. Be careful who you trust. I think that’s the key message of the book. Sexual criminals are rarely the monsters who lurk in the shadows of our imaginations. They are all too human. All too plausible. They can appear liable, convincing. They hide in plain sight. Within families and within professional and voluntary roles that give them access to potential victims. They hide behind status, credibility and manipulative charm. Only their unfortunate victims see their true nature. The monster behind the mask. And so, be careful who you trust. Protect your children well. Help them to understand what is appropriate and what is not. That not all secrets are acceptable or good. And that they should talk to a parent of another trusted adult if they have concerns that anybody’s behavior is inappropriate. The words of children should be taken seriously. Listen to them. Don’t close your ears. Act on their disclosures. There are monsters out there. Monsters in human form. We need to do everything we can to protect children from them. It’s everybody’s responsibility. Don’t look away.
“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul. If the sound of happy children is grating on your ears, I don’t think it’s the children who need to be adjusted but us adults since it doesn’t come in single package, it’s a proximity disorder. If you want to breed something, breed brave hearts, not soulless racehorses.”
What Can I Do? “But what can I do?” …
-My first thought when asked to contribute my thoughts for BloomBrite, for I don’t have children and don’t find that I particularly relate well to them and then I dug a little deeper into my soul and found the answer and hear me out “O dear world”
-For, whether or not we have children of our own we are still role models for children everywhere, intentionally or inadvertently, by way of our actions, our talk, and the example by which we live our lives. Children see everything, hear everything and process it all through a child’s mind, one as of yet inexperienced in worldly matters. A mind easily influenced and moulded.
-If we live a life filled with love and laughter, compassion and concern, they can’t help but incorporate these traits into their psyche. They see the world through the eyes of positivity and will have a better chance at growing up using all their skills at becoming the best adult that they can be. It sounds simple, and yes, childish, to think that exposure to joy is enough in this sometimes harsh world of ours, yet we truly need to add sugar to the tart to encourage balance.
-I am not a mother, but I am an aunt. I am not a parent but I am an adult. I have been a child and I remember certain key influential persons who offered powerful examples of how I wanted to live my life, “when I grew up.” We can never truly know when we will too become that example, be it a good one or bad. All we can do is being keenly aware of our actions, our words for you never can know who will be watching, who will be learning from us…
So, “What can I do?” Nothing or anything. I now choose anything.
And why “Anything”? – Ah! Well since I have never bore one but I know what it is when I write for a child. Everything I write makes a deposit in the memory bank of a brain.
-Parenting is but the easiest thing in the world to have an option about, but the hardest thing in the world to do, you get that you silly world…
-Yes I am single mother without a child since I decided to raise each child not just bear one!
“For children spell love T-I-M-E, for I had theories how to raise one when I was a child, now I have no theories but mine and that’s called grooming a child”….