Fortnight of Transition, Day 5: Whose Children Matter?

2

September 13, 2020-

In some of my response to reports of abused and neglected children, it has come back at me that these particular campaigns are cherry-picked, Right-Wing trope activities. Maybe so, but I personally don’t cherry-pick, as to which children get attention and which go without.

Early in my counseling career, a severe sexual assault case was brought to me and the Response Team was in the midst of getting the victim to safety, when a call came about another child threatening suicide. I asked my senior partner to take that case and get back to me, once the child had been evaluated. This was unusual, for the particular community to have two victims at the same time, but there was no daylight, no distinction, between one child and the other.

One red flag, which discomfits many, is a child who gets too close, who hugs too tightly or even wants to sit on a non-related adult’s lap. I’ve dealt, gently, but firmly, with several such children, almost always girls-and who were either being totally ignored, shunned by their father or were being grommed by an adult either in, or known to, their immediate family. Getting the father to acknowledge, and spend quality time with, his daughter was relatively easy. The girls being taught sexual behaviours had, however, to be removed from the home and placed in group homes, where experienced professionals were able to give them the advanced therapy they needed.

I think of these children, a few of whom have kept in touch, as adults and are doing quite well, considering the ordeals that came their way. I think of them all the more, in light of the current Netflix film, “Cuties”, which uses exhibitionism as a vehicle to “combat sexual exploitation of children”. Counterintuitive, at best, and exploitative in itself, at worst, I see the showing of the film as a serious error in judgement. There was a period, from the mid-1990s to the late 2000s, when young European and South American girls were featured in some rather lurid websites-with the sites’ owners and photographers claiming their work was “art”. Fortunately, Interpol, the FBI, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, of Germany, and, wondrously, the Russian FSB, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, took these sites down and the long process of finding and rehabilitating the child victims was initiated. I would not want to see anything close to that horrific state of affairs be repeated.

That said, the vast majority of sexual and physical abuse of children takes place in situations familiar to them, at the hands of people whom they ought to be able to trust. This makes it both simple and complex, for the helping professional- Simple, in that the child is easy to locate and remove from the home; complex, in that there is often a culture of denial in place, largely based on fear of disruption and dislocation of the family unit.

Getting co-operation from the other family members is completely dependent on their degree of self-assurance and cohesiveness, independent of the perpetrator(s). In a close-knit community, even law enforcement officers. medical staff and social services workers, if they are related to the perpetrator, can be a hindrance to justice for the victim.

All these factors come into play with regard to obtaining justice, and if the matter involves a child, or multiple children, being groomed in sexual behaviour, there needs to be both a swift separation of perpetrator(s) and victim(s) and active therapeutic measures initiated as quickly as possible.

No child, anywhere, is less important than any other.

Destiny and Metamorphosis

5

May 13, 2019-

A dear friend posted, on another media site, that we are ever in a state of metamorphosis.  This has nothing to do with the shape-shifting that was all the rage, on television and in film, as recently as two years ago (“Game of Thrones”, “Power Rangers”, etc.)  Metamorphosis is best-seen in terms of growth.

I have also read quite a bit, elsewhere, on narcissism.  I once had a touch of that affliction.  My mother never let that horse out of the gate.  She told us that one who regards self as above reproach is dead in the water.

That’s true beyond doubt.  In the course of dividing up the contents of a bin, I re-read some old papers from my administrative and college-teaching days.  One, invaluable, summary of my students’ evaluation of a rather paltry teaching effort, in 2009, pointed out that I trended towards hidebound monotony, complete with soft, unchanging voice, in presenting what should have been a vibrant, challenging course.

When I returned to teaching, after Penny’s passing, the presentation became more vigorous and engaged.  The old dog had to master new tricks.

Likewise, in younger years, my disciplinary tactics included the bellow, and a harsher tone.  Being a full-time counselor “metamorphosed” my demeanor towards favouring my empathic side, and the hardness of my teacher training went out the window.  I have kept that empathy, yet have also learned to employ a modicum of taking people to task, when that appears necessary, though without being rough or demeaning.

Nowadays, my life-change continues. I am in the process of giving many of my professional materials to others.  Work, as I have known it for the past forty-three years, has a light at the end of its tunnel:  One and a half years remain, until my focus becomes largely travel-journalism and Work Away-based, with a healthy mix of family, perhaps even grandparenthood.  There may be some money, in the former, but I am not worried about that.

My destiny, it seems, has always been to go forward, to build bridges and to not be held to anyone else’s notions of success-no matter how well-meaning those may be.  This may require a few more positive life-changes.