It Was for My Own Good

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Written by Beaker45

I have a few good memories as a child but the ones that seem to have molded me were not.

***

I’m four years old and I’ve just discovered if I play with myself my body will react. My mother catches me. Stands me in front of the mirror explaining how ashamed I should be. I don’t know what to think. I am 4.

In the years to come I’ll be horrified each time my mother tells the story with me in the room.

***

I am pretty small, 6 maybe. I’ve just said something I shouldn’t have. By now I’ve learned there are acceptable and unacceptable conversations. I am in trouble. Mom spanks me again. I start crying. Grandpa is mad because I am crying, Mom wants me to just shut up.

“Do you want something to cry about?”

She hits me again. I cry deeper and go into a fit. Finally, I am holding my breath.

“Maybe he will finally die.”

Grandma throws water in my face to snap me out of it.

***

I make a mistake. A simple mistake. I throw the ball and it breaks a window.

She drags me inside and lectures me.

“What is wrong with you?”

“Are you stupid?”

“Go get me a switch.”

I stay outside a long time.

I hope she will forget.

She doesn’t forget.

She comes out, drops my pants, and whips me bloody with a switch.

I can’t go to school because I can’t sit down.

***

My report card comes home. Over 60 days absent.

“Doesn’t do his work!”

“Great child.”

“Doesn’t turn in his homework.”

“F.”

The family conversation starts. I hear my Mom, Grandmother, Grandfather. Everyone trying to figure out what is wrong with me.

Grandpa thinks I need my ass whipped.

Mom thinks something is wrong with me.

Grandma says “We need to leave the baby alone.”

***

I stare out at the window watching the neighbors, wrestling, playing football and running around. I want to go out so bad. I’m 10, and I just want to play.

I have to clean the house, or color, or take care of the dogs.

Soon one of the kids runs home crying.

Mom tells me that is the reason I can’t go out. I will get hurt.

***

Friday night comes. I look toward town. The stadium lights are on. We can hear the sounds of the game. All the rest of the kids are there. I want to go.

I beg and get backhanded.

I can’t go because it is a dangerous place to go.

***

By the time I was 9, I knew my childhood was not right… even though I wasn’t allowed to interact with other kids other than at school.

I always knew I was loved. I never questioned it. I don’t question it today.

As an adult, I started to question if I was abused.

I was loved, how could I have been abused?

Wow, I was abused.

My abuse was Emotional and Physical. It was for my own good.

My mother loved me and lived with the guilt of my abuse.

I learned something was wrong with me.

I was convinced I should be ashamed.

I never grew out of it.

I try to remember the shame is a lie… and move on.

Phantom Memory

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Written by Leon Richards

What if you knew without a doubt that something terrible happened, but you couldn’t draw forth a single memory of it? Would that be better, or worse, than remembering? What if you knew you were abused by someone who should have cared for you and protected you, but you couldn’t recall anything? Would that be better, or worse, than remembering? And what if your body remembered what you’d forgotten; certain things could make your heart race and your fight, flight, or freeze instincts kick in; or for no obvious reason, make your skin crawl or make you feel cold and clammy; or take your breath away when the air is clear, and you’re not even exercising? Would that be better, or worse, than remembering?

To quote childwelfare.gov:

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events occurring before age 18. ACEs include all types of abuse and neglect as well as parental mental illness, substance use, divorce, incarceration, and domestic violence. A landmark study in the 1990s found a significant relationship between the number of ACEs a person experienced and a variety of negative outcomes in adulthood, including poor physical and mental health, substance abuse, and risky behaviors. The more ACEs experienced, the greater the risk for these outcomes.

That describes me pretty well. I was abused in multiple ways. I had a raging alcoholic for a father; and he abused my brothers and me, and our mom, too. My parents divorced when I was young, and for a time we had supervised visitation with my father. But I don’t actually remember most of that. In fact, one of my youngest memories comes from when I was twelve, not long before my dad disappeared. My brothers and I were at visitation with our dad, with our mom supervising, and he made an overtly sexual comment about my sixteen year old brother’s recent (medically necessary) circumcision. That’s what’s salient for me, that’s how I know something terrible happened, even though I don’t remember any of it.

Memory is a challenge for me. History is a mystery. The idea of ‘long-term memory’ seems like a joke other people are playing on me, and the idea of ‘short-term memory’ seems like the punch-line that flies over my head. You see, I have Multiple Sclerosis.

From the National MS Society:

Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS). […] Within the CNS, the immune system causes inflammation that damages myelin — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves, and the specialized cells that make myelin. When myelin or nerve fibers are damaged or destroyed in MS, messages within the CNS are altered or stopped completely.  […] The damaged areas develop scar tissue which gives the disease its name – multiple areas of scarring or multiple sclerosis. The cause of MS is not known, but it is believed to involve genetic susceptibility, abnormalities in the immune system and environmental factors that combine to trigger the disease.

And excerpted from Dube et al’s Cumulative Childhood Stress and Autoimmune Diseases in Adults:

Childhood traumatic stress increased the likelihood of hospitalization with a diagnosed autoimmune disease decades into adulthood. These findings are consistent with recent biological studies on the impact of early life stress on subsequent inflammatory responses.

Environmental factors, ACEs, poor physical health… reader, let me tell you something about MS. It flares up when the patient experiences unmitigated distress. Like, say, just as a random example; when the patient has a supervisor who mocks and berates employees, including for their terrible memory, and there’s nothing the employee can do about it because he really needs that job and whatever little pittance it brings in. That’d probably do it. But that’s not the only kind of distress, and whatever the source, distress worsens MS. MS is an autoimmune disorder and it’s believed to be caused at least in part by “environmental factors”. ACEs are potent environmental factors. Two plus two usually equals four, and the math adds up here, too. The initial distress at least contributed to the disease’s development if it didn’t outright create it, and the disease is then powered by further distress. And the retraining necessary to learn how to avoid distress and manage it when it comes is orders of magnitude Easier-Said-Than-Done, especially when you have a mind like a sieve, or Swiss-Cheese-Brain.

I have a lot of ways to describe the state of my memory, because part of the retraining is developing a sense of humor about the thing. Long story short, there are hundreds of lesions throughout my brain, where my own immune system attacked it, ate away pieces of it. Because of that, and among a list of symptoms that aren’t really important here, I have difficulty forming new memories, and many of the ones that were already there have been ravaged by the disease. Among the old and now-destroyed memories are all the ones I would have of my abuse. It happened. I’ve just forgotten.

It could be argued that’s a blessing. Something terrible happened to me, but I don’t have to remember any of it. It could also be argued that’s a curse. Something terrible happened to me, but I’ll probably never be able to fully process it. Regardless, it’s kept me up nights. Not nearly as often anymore, but it used to be the case that I’d have nightmares whenever I’d sleep, and night terrors whenever I was trying to sleep. There are still things that fill my veins with ice. There are still things that terrify me, for no obvious reason.

So what if you knew something terrible happened, but you couldn’t remember? What if you couldn’t bring up the tiniest shred of evidence in your own mind that it happened? What if the tapestry of your memory was destroyed by that same terrible thing? Would that be better, or worse, than remembering?

Amputees experience a phenomenon called Phantom Limb. An itchy left foot, years after it was removed. Pain in the right wrist, yet they’ve worn a prosthetic right arm for a long time. What is MS but a kind of rot in the brain? What are brain lesions but amputations of memory?

So, last question, reader. If your innocence is stolen from you, and you only know it happened at all because of Phantom Memory, and the reason you only have Phantom Memory available to you is that your innocence was stolen from you in the first place…

Is that better, or worse, than remembering?

You tell me.

SHELTER?? In Place

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Written by Billy Walker

As I thought about this Shelter in Place order, I knew what it meant for the abused child. For many, school is the social getaway. It’s the time they get a reprieve from the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Shelter in Place means being trapped with their abuser.

Experts tell us that domestic violence can increase when people are in close proximity for extended periods. They also tell us that there is a greater risk of child abuse in families where there is enormous stress—isolation, struggles paying the bills, uncertainty over well-being.

Bree Marchman, Child Welfare Division Director for Marin County in California, was interviewed by Devin Fehely of KPIX news. She stated that the child abuse hotlines are open but the calls are down in Marin and Statewide. These children, who are victims of abuse, typically reach out to those they trust; which is often teachers, counselors, and classroom aides. Without those people in their lives, they have nowhere to turn.

These children have been ripped from the thin strand of safety they had. I can only speculate what the next few weeks (or months) will look like to these kids. Schooling in an undisciplined, abusive, violent, or emotionally traumatic environment can only be a dismal failure.

This isn’t a class, race, or creed issue. This is simply an abuse issue, across all economic and cultural pods. With over six and a half million people filing unemployment, Shelter isn’t secure let alone safety for the future. This stress and uncertainty could be fuel for even the least likely to abuse.

What can be done? First things first. Find out who to call. Santa Maria California Police reported a surge in domestic cases which included child abuse just as Miami and Houston did.

We can be proactive with phone numbers on our refrigerator for child services, police department and maybe even domestic shelters to be able to hand off, if someone may need it.

Now more than ever when we hear the abuse—the doors slamming, the child screaming and crying—and see marks and bruises on the kids: we need to call the hotlines. The goal isn’t to have the families destroyed. The goal is to head off lifelong trauma. Because, make no mistake, an abused child is traumatized lifelong. But early intervention can reduce the severity.

When we report it is important to remember we aren’t splitting a family. We are reaching and helping a family that needs our help.

I Was That Girl

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Written by Roselena Guerra

I was that girl…

That girl who peed her pants while her father stood in front of her.  I wish I could say more, but somehow my brain can’t remember the details. I was so young.  The girl who stood by her mother as her father threw a glass vase at them for trying to defend her son.  Oh, how she remembers that gut-wrenching feeling sitting there watching her mother cry. Such a confused little girl.  The girl who watched her brother stare at the wall in the corner for hours without being fed for not being “good enough.”  The girl who learned to stay away from strangers while the real danger was right at home.

I was that girl…

That girl who dreaded the night, knowing she would be up listening to her mother and father argue in the next room.  The girl who held her soggy teddy bear up to her chin praying to God to make it stop. Making promises she couldn’t keep.  The girl who was nauseous every morning fearing what mood her father would have that day.  The girl who was forced to stand in her parents’ room with her brothers to listen as her father shamed and belittled their mother.  The girl who hugged her mother tight as tears ran down her face, listening to her father’s insults. The girl who locked eyes with the devil. Lying to his brown hairy face knowing damn well her mother was hiding in the garage. Sitting there hearing her mother scream because of this devil as her Nana screamed too, for God. The girl who saw her mother’s bruise as they got ready for church that night.

I was that girl…

That girl who became a victim of her father’s words and hands.  The girl who was criticized for trying to be herself and stand up for what’s right.  The girl whose self-esteem was constantly destroyed.  She was fat and should lose weight.  She was worthless and useless for not cooking for him.  Who would want a girl like her? She was a whore for dressing “worldly” and not abiding by the church’s rules. His rules.  She was a slut on drugs in the streets for going out to eat with friends after Prom. She was useless if she didn’t experiment on her body. but she was worthless if anyone else touched her body. No one, I repeat, no one would ever want or love her.

I was that girl…

That girl, groomed by her father.  The girl who sat on her father’s lap. Daddy’s girl.  The girl who got massages to help develop her entire body.  The girl who was asked to take lingerie pictures… to win money… to hire a Christian band for her Quincenera.  The girl who was forced to kiss his lips, after he apologized for ruining her Quincenera with his religious beliefs.  The girl who lay there as he told her not to tell her mother.  The girl who soon avoided and hated her father. Who became the girl who sat in the passenger seat as he tried to convince her that he loved her like a father. Friends’ fathers were probably doing the same.

I was that girl…

That girl who began hurting herself.  The girl who sliced her arms and thighs.  The girl who starved herself and lied about eating.  The girl who spent afternoons in the nurse’s office rather than class.  The girl who was rushed out of class and sent home due to severe panic attacks.  The girl who began taking medication at a young age.  The girl who stopped going to therapy once her therapist, with the Big Blue Eyes, questioned her about the abuse. The girl who had the loudest laugh, but cried herself to sleep. The girl whose secret was diminishing her.

Then, I became that Survivor…

That Survivor who broke her silence. The Survivor who broke the cycle and found out there were others like her.  A brave soul who reported her abuser.  The Survivor who waited anxiously as each preliminary hearing was rescheduled.  The Survivor who was accused of being a fucking liar and attention seeker by her own family. The Survivor who faced her abuser in court while he continued to shake his head in disbelief at the accusations. The plea deal. Six year sentence, while she fights a life sentence.

I became that Survivor…

That Survivor who hit rock bottom. The Survivor whose brother talked to the 911 operator as he held a towel over her bloody forearms. The Survivor who wears her scars proudly but also shrugs at the sight of strangers’ reactions.  The Survivor who turned to dancing, singing, and therapy to assist in her healing journey.  The Survivor with an amazing support team. The Survivor who desperately searched for love. The Survivor who refused to continue the cycle of violence because her baby girl deserved so much more.

I became that Survivor…

That Survivor who refused to give up.  The Survivor who was reaccepted into University because she wanted to find a bigger purpose to her story. The Survivor who passed her semester the same week she was put on bed rest.  The Survivor who earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology with an 11 month old daughter to cheer her on.  The Survivor who is now passionate and has spent the last few years serving at-risk youth. Because they matter and they need to be heard.

I became that Survivor…

That Survivor who continues to discover life after the abuse.  The Survivor who wants to be loved. Who falls but gets back up again.  The Survivor who is often misunderstood as angry, dramatic, or jealous. The Survivor who can be triggered by a month, a song, a holiday, a dream, or a person. The Survivor who can’t control her reactions sometimes. Who often blames herself and feels like a burden. Although it may not seem like a big deal to most, if you had to relive the abuse over again for each and every little trigger, you’d probably understand.

I became that Survivor…

That Survivor who found her way to an amazing organization, Breaking the Silence. The Survivor who earned her Survivor’s Medallion. The Survivor who uses her story to reach other survivors. The Survivor who will NEVER stop overcoming the darkness or fighting for what she deserves. For what ALL OF US deserve. Healing.

Now, I’m a Warrior.

A Message to Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

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Written by Jasper Lopez

If you’re reading this, I want to say thank you for taking the time.  I hope this message is able to impact lives for the better.

I know what it feels like to need to keep it a secret. The abuse.

Every day that I kept my secret buried inside felt like a small victory.  I just felt like if I could make it through the abuse then I could keep this secret for the rest of my life.  No one would have to know and I would tell myself, “This won’t affect me.”

Those first few years after I no longer had to suffer through the almost daily abuse, I was the happiest person you’d ever seen.  I felt as if I had escaped. I had made it out. I could go on with the rest of my life and never think about this ever again.

The truth is I couldn’t go a day without thinking about it.

Soon the happiness started to fade but I continued to smile.

“Everything is good over here, I’m fine.”

Then I thought I could hold the secret in a bottle. A flask. And maybe these sleeping pills would help.

That is until my eyes started closing and as they closed I thought Oh shit! Did I just mess up?

My last thought before I passed out was I don’t want to die.

I awakened 16 hours later, walked myself to the bathroom, and saw the reflection in the mirror of a pale, dehydrated, lost young man.

“What the fuck happened to you?  You were supposed to be a superstar, you were supposed to conquer the world!”

It took me time to break my silence and realize that the only person I was protecting with my silence was the person that caused all the pain to begin with.

I would then go on a journey to turn my life around.  I ran my first ever marathon. Moved to Northern California.  Started seeing a therapist. Picked up surfing along the way. And figured out my life’s purpose.

But I struggle with my insecurities.

I share my story with you because no one should feel as though they have to wait years to break their silence.  Those dreams and aspirations that you had as a kid are all still possible.

Now more than ever we need people to chase their dreams.

We need people that will speak their truth and shine their light to guide those who have yet to break their silence.

If you are still struggling with the idea of sharing your story, you are not alone. You will have friends, family, colleagues, mentors, coaches there when the path gets tough.

Assembly Bill 218, which went into effect January 1st, 2020 allows for civil action against the offender and any institution or organization that allowed it to happen.  It’s an open window for the truth to be revealed and the institutions that allowed it or concealed it to be held accountable.  The law extends the statute of limitations 22 years after the victims 18th birthday.  There is also a provision in the law that allows for anyone to come forward until January 1st, 2023.

Although you cannot go back in time and undo the wrongs that happened, it’s not too late to share your story and break your silence.  You don’t know how or who you may impact by sharing your story.

This is important information, so please pass it on. To a friend. A family member. Someone you know that has suffered for far too long.

There is no need to keep secrets.

We are survivors of childhood sexual abuse and we are stronger together.

A Beggar

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Written by Alynn Berk

Growing up I didn’t think my childhood was so bad.  Not until I began to feel ashamed of my own family because other families weren’t like mine.  And then I just began to feel ashamed.

Child abuse has affected my whole life, every relationship and most importantly my relationship with myself.  At 56 years old I’m continually gaining awareness of the lifelong impact that child abuse has had on my ability to cope in almost every situation.

Worst of all, child abuse strips away self-love.  It rips it out of every cell and replaces love with shame. Infinite shame so unbearable that being IN the world is impossible.  It shades everything, every relationship, spiritual awareness, language and interpretation, into an awkward, embarrassing, and very small version of what I could be – of what is possible for me to be.

Compliments are met with dismissiveness.  Criticisms are an overwhelming amplification of self-hatred.  God is at worst an intentional manipulator of fate—and at best an ignorant bystander.  Love is doled out by those with more power than myself, who I can rarely please but wait timidly for any morsel of kindness.

That is until the pain of shame became so unbearable that I chose self-love.  I chose to walk an unknown path to healing.  I could no longer bear the known path of fear, shame, awkwardness, and being a beggar for affirmation.

I became a beggar for myself.  I begged to know what it would feel like to be comfortable in my skin, feel confident enough to set boundaries, to know that failure wouldn’t cause rejection. I wanted to celebrate who I was at every moment, to joyfully receive compliments into my heart and hear criticism with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Self-love enables me to choose healthy partners and friends, search for a compassionate interpretation of my highest Self, set boundaries without stress, and respect other people’s boundaries without shame.  Self-love means I can go to dinner or the movies alone and truly enjoy my own company.

Self-love means I no longer search for someone to tell me that I am lovable, or even likable, or even tolerable.  Because no one could give me the kind of love that I give myself.  The kind of love that leaves very little room for shame, very little room for begging, and very little room for, well, bullshit.

How did I come to a place of unconditional self-love?

I got so very sick and tired of believing that I was worthless and unworthy.  I was abused one too many times and I refused to live that way anymore – small, and in hiding.  I wanted my very first reaction to be standing up for myself instead of standing outside of my body. I wanted to know what it felt like to punch someone awful, smack in the nose, either figuratively or literally. I wanted to walk away from a bully with my head held high.

So I did my inner work, the ugly and beautiful healing that lifted me above my shame and transformed it into laughter.

The most beautiful thing about self-love is that it gives you freedom. Freedom from shame and lack.  Freedom to believe in yourself and allow people see all your wonderful qualities, including those qualities they may not admire.

Self-love is really about conquering the inner demons that had no business being there in the first place and filling yourself up with the confidence to be in the world without shame.

Coming Out of the Abuse Closet

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Written by Corky R. Draconi

Many people know of me. Some are mutual acquaintances, and we’re connected by our connections to others. Others might even call me friend, but none would call me their best friend. Because none of them really know me.

Well… perhaps it would be more correct to say I wouldn’t call any of them my best friend.

Honestly, I wouldn’t call most people more than acquaintance.

Some people have made an effort to get to know me. Few make it that far, though, because it’s difficult to keep coming back when someone continually keeps you at arm’s length. Still others haven’t even bothered to try. I don’t blame them. They’re fooled by the façade I generally display. You know. The tough old untouchable broad.

The façade works best with total strangers, but even those that make it past the stranger stage often continue to be intimidated. Like the 6’4”, 250-pound tattoo artist who was terrified of me, and secretly called me The General for years.

I would venture to say that even those with whom I worked for almost 20 years have little knowledge of who I am outside of my professional persona.

I could tell you I like it that way, but that would be a lie. Of course, the lie could remain my secret… taken all of the way to my grave… but then there’d be no point to writing this post.

So, what is the big secret?

Why do I keep people at arm’s length—even though I deeply envy people who have a BFF, or even seem to have a reasonable number of friends?

Disappointingly, I’m not a super hero hiding my secret identity.

I simply don’t trust you.

Don’t worry, it probably isn’t anything you did. It is, for me, the most difficult consequence of a childhood spent in disappointment.

You see, my mother suffered from severe mental illness. And my father… well… he was a mama’s boy who didn’t have an ounce of emotional intelligence.

My early childhood was filled with daiquiri parties, or drunken pinochle games at the kitchen table. As I got older, church came into our lives. One set of addictions replaced another.

What I didn’t experience in childhood was much physical or emotional affection.

Consequently, I was developmentally delayed and didn’t even start speaking until the age of three.

The lasting impacts of this neglect have continued throughout my life. I’ve always struggled with pervasive depression and low self-esteem. And I’m generally unable to develop intimacy with people. It’s the whole trust thing, don’t you know?

It didn’t end there, though. In addition to the severe emotional neglect I experienced, I was put in the position of acting as a partner to both of my parents.

This is called Emotional Incest.

When mom was hospitalized during extreme bouts of depression, dad expected me to care for the house and my younger siblings. And he came to me as a sounding board, with problems far beyond the knowledge or maturity of a preteen.

When dad was traveling for work, mom came to me for support and assistance.

In some ways, the emotional incest worked to my advantage. I am ultra-responsible. A caretaker. An excellent pretender.

There’s always a flip side, though.

I’m responsible to the point of taking blame for others. Take care of others to the point of putting their needs ahead of my own. Pretend I know what I’m doing and have confidence in my abilities, all the while fearing that I’ll be caught in my pretense.

And everyone will know I’m a fraud.

In some respects, the lack of connection has been a freeing force in my life. For many years, free climbing, sky diving, and motorcycling helped me maintain sanity. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say fierce independence allowed me many opportunities I would’ve missed otherwise.

Still. It’s a lonely road.

All my research, knowledge, and experience tell me I’m not alone.

I know for a fact there are others out there like me.

Yet I still feel alone.

The Important Things

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Here in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s possible people are taking time to contemplate on the important things in life. I know I am. Safety is certainly foremost on most of our minds. The fact is, far too many people are sick, dying, or already dead from this virus. Grandparents, parents, siblings, and children. Real people.

Schools have closed. Colleges and universities have transitioned to online teaching, forcing students with children to figure out a way to navigate full time parenting and school work. Non-essential businesses have been forced to close their doors and lay off thousands of workers. Nobody, from what I can see, has managed to escape the impact of this crisis.

Some people are quarantined in their homes, waiting out a sickness or pending test results. Others are sheltering in place… staying home as much as possible, to reduce the spread of the virus. For those who are not quarantined, essential trips to and from work, the doctor or pharmacy, and grocery stores mean keeping up-to-date on the latest safety guidelines. Gloves or no gloves? Masks or no masks? The recommendations change as more information becomes available.

Many grocery stores are providing specific times to shop that are restricted to older and disabled folks, limiting the number of customers inside at a time, and sanitizing their carts for each customer. Many have also installed shields for the cashiers and placed tape on the floor at checkout lines to indicate where people should wait before moving forward.

Social distancing is the new norm… the safety of individuals and the masses demands it.

Social distancing is a mixed bag for my social anxiety disorder. While I absolutely cherish the fact that people who I don’t know are being asked to stay outside of my personal bubble, I ache for closeness with my people.

I miss spending time with them. I miss the handshakes and hugs. While Zoom, Skype, and Facetime are wonderful pieces of technology that allow us to connect with others in this unprecedented time of social distancing, intimacy with friends and family outside of our homes is conspicuously absent. And I miss it.

So, while I’m certainly thinking about safety, and following the guidelines, I’m also thinking about what’s important in life. For me, and to me. And how it’s possible I took those handshakes and hugs for granted… even though it literally took me decades to allow others close enough for intimacy, and years more to get used to it.

All of that said, this pandemic has had a profound impact on the work that we are committed to doing at Breaking the Silence. It’s certainly challenging to work on raising awareness of child abuse in our community when we cannot hold our events in the ways that we normally would.

Yet, it is critical that our work persists. One way or another. We must adapt to the circumstances of this time, and continue to share the message of Breaking the Silence. For the children. For the children who have died or will die. For the children who are currently being victimized. For the children who have survived. And for all of those children who will come in the future. We must break the shroud of silence that allows abuse to continue.

Because–make no mistake–children are still being abused. The official government statistics I’ve followed for two decades tell me that the vast majority of those abused children–more than 90%–likely continue to be hurt in their own homes, by people within their own circles of trust. Parents. Guardians. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents. The very people with whom children are sheltering in place may very well be abusing them.

I’m talking about sexual abuse and physical abuse, but not only those. I’m also talking about the more subtle (and arguably much more deeply damaging in the short and long term) forms of abuse such as emotional or psychological abuse, emotional incest, witnessing domestic violence, and all forms of neglect.

And children are still dying from their abuse. Those same official government statistics tell me that children are likely still dying from child abuse at a rate of more than four a day. Every. Single. Day.

For more than two decades I’ve argued that if there was a new virus or bacteria killing children in this country at a rate of four every day the local health departments, CDC, and NIH would be all over it until it was eradicated. Yet, while child abuse kills our children at a rate of four every single day, so many of us just turn our eyes away. We think it’s somebody else’s business and somebody else’s problem. Why is that?

There’s no way to know today what impact, if any, the pandemic, job losses, and shelter in place guidelines have had or will have on the problem of child abuse. Will the number of abused children be lower or higher? Will the number of children dying from their abuse decrease or increase? We won’t know those answers for almost two years from now, because the official government statistics on child abuse in America for 2020 won’t come out until the end of 2021.

However, what we do know this very moment is this: Child abuse is everybody’s problem and it’s everybody’s business… and if we (the people) don’t do something about it, it will continue killing and deeply wounding our children.

Please, if you know (or reasonably suspect) that a child is being hurt, don’t just look the other way. Look up your local hotline number for Child Protective Services child abuse reporting, and report it. If nothing comes of the report, do it again. In pre-coronavirus times, it took an average of 12 reports to get an investigation. I don’t know if it’s better or worse today. So report it, and report it again. Please. Report it many times as it takes for that child to get the help they need and deserve.

For the children.

Our future.

Child Abuse Prevention Month 2020

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April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Due to COVID-19, we are unable to hold our usual Child Abuse Awareness Events at this time. However, child abuse and the fight against child abuse continue… and so must we continue our mission to raise awareness!

Beginning this Sunday, April 5, 2020, members of our planning committee will be posting weekly blog entries.

Public Statement on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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As the effects of coronavirus continue to evolve, Breaking the SilenceTM is committed to the health and safety of our event staff, volunteers, and attendees/participants, as well as the general public. Therefore, in accordance with restrictions suggested nationally, statewide, and within the county and city of Fresno, we have decided to make the following adjustments to our 2020 Child Abuse Prevention Month events.

Run for the Children, originally scheduled to take place on March 29, 2020 at Kearney Park, will transition to a virtual run. All registered participants will still receive their event shirts, if they registered prior to 11:59pm on March 15th (provided their registrations included a shirt). All registered participants who submit their run results to Breaking the SilenceTM RunSignUp Page between March 29th and April 30th will still receive their finisher medallions. Shirts and medallions will be directly distributed at a later date when it is deemed safe by health officials to do so. Registered participants will be notified via email about our plans for distribution, as more information becomes available.

Walk for the Children, originally scheduled to take place on April 15, 2020 at The Shops at River Park, is canceled.

Speak for the Children, originally scheduled to take place on April 25, 2020 at The Big Red Church, is postponed. It is unclear at this time what the new date for this event will be, as the situation continues to unfold. However, you can be sure that we will continue to monitor official information and restrictions, and a new date will only be set once it is deemed safe by health officials to do so.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email us at fresno.bts@gmail.com.