I cannot imagine what it must be like to be moved from your home, placed in a foster or group home, and left to fend for yourself. Case workers and social workers come and go and some homes are better than others. Many of these children have only themselves and each other to depend on. I am grateful for their ability to preserve in ways many adults would not.
Child abuse takes on many shapes and forms. From emotional and verbal abuse, to sexual and physical abuse, there are more ways than most people realize that kids get hurt every day. What many don’t know is that most kids are hurt by the people they love. Parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts are often the biggest perpetrators in a child’s life. This makes things even more scary and confusing for kids, who are taught to trust the people they love.
When abuse happens, families don’t often want to think something could be wrong in their own family. Secrets happen. People whisper, but do nothing. They want to pretend the child is making up a story or that abuse was “a one-time thing” or even an accident. Sadly, this is rarely true. Instead, abuse is more common than even statisticians can calculate because of how grossly underreported it is. Most often, those who abuse get away with it and continue to commit crimes against children.
The one thing I am most grateful for is the handful of people who are stepping up and doing something about this. It takes courage to learn of abuse and do something. There are unsung heroes who are willing to lose relationships and cause family rifts to defend the innocent. These people, who often have the most to lose, are the people who support children unconditionally and understand that abuse can never be tolerated, in any shape or form, no matter who the perpetrator.
As the author of “Wave to Papa,” a story of the abuse of a toddler, I am thankful for my ability to write to shed more light on abuse and the social services system. It’s my hope that with this story, and the many others to follow – I’ve just contracted more books on similar topics – I can work to keep these serious issues in the public eye.
Thank you to all who stand with me, not unafraid, but stubborn enough to do the right thing no matter what the cost. Your courage inspires me in the same way these children do. It’s nice to know that we are not alone. As long as kids are being hurt, I will continue to tell their stories and yours. Together, I hope that someday, we can put an end to child abuse and create a fairer and just system for the most vulnerable and innocent – our kids.
Sometimes, the most obvious things are the hardest to see.
She stands at the top of the courthouse steps, clutching her toddler son to her ribs. His chubby fists form tight balls. He grabs her rope necklace, the one her husband bought her for their first anniversary four years ago. From it, hangs a modest silver cross. She inhales, and begins her descent, trying not to make eye contact with the reporters coming toward them. They hold cameras, microphones, pens, notebooks, and determined expressions. They remind her of a lynch mob or of hunters at the beginning of deer season. She tells herself they are interested in someone else. She’s used to lying to herself. But there’s no use. She stops, right there, on the Northhampton Superior Courthouse steps. Her words leave her lips before she even has a chance to think about them; assemble them, scan them for consequence.
“He’s okay. We’re okay,” she says, anticipating their questions but not their assumptions or prior knowledge of the history here. “It’s just a little scrape. He just misses his Papa!”
A mustached man with a giant camera comes closer, taking the steps two at a time. Behind him is a skinny woman with big glasses. She carries a long stick with fuzz on the end that Dawn can only assume is a microphone. It reminds Dawn of the oversized dusters her grandmother used to have her clean the trailer with as a child. She holds baby Noah closer, pulling the necklace from his grip. He doesn’t fight her and instead begins to drool. She looks to her left. She looks to her right. The only way out is down the steps. She’s frozen.
Dawn Winchester stands on the courthouse steps holding her toddler son, Noah. The boy is shy and bruised. It’s the second time they’ve stood together like this after Noah’s father has “had an accident” while watching him. But this time, the media wants answers and a lynch mob is coming straight for Dawn – a self-described ‘good Christian’ woman now at risk of losing a second child. Dawn must decide whether to believe her husband and stand by him; despite the serious allegations against him. Scared and alone, she must ask herself: At what point is an accident only an accident and when is it time to step up and protect your child? When is enough finally enough?
“Wave to Papa” is available at: //amzn.com/1680582771
Lee is freelance writer and therapist from Southern, NH. Lee’s work has appeared in journals and magazines since 1995. She’s received numerous awards from the New England Press Association for her work as a journalist. “Wave to Papa” is her second novel. Lee is also author of “Crazy Like Me” with Savant Books and Publications, LLC. She has a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and works with children and families in crisis.
More of her work can be seen at www.authorerinlee.com.
LIMITLESS PUBLISHING: //www.limitlesspublishing.net/authors/erin-lee/