I did not sleep well last night. I went to bed at 1:30 am trying to sort out what just happened to me on the 3 – 11 pm shift at my work. A couple whom I had been associated with for about a week trusted me enough to share stories of their lives as children and how they had both come from families where they were physically and emotionally abused as children, the husband, brutally so. It was the wee hours of Mother’s Day morning and I was thinking about the mothers of these unfortunate young people as I lay in my bed in the dark. I could not stop weeping. I don’t understand women who allow a man to live with them who torture their children, child’s father or not. How can that ever, ever, ever be acceptable?
One of my coworkers said that animals get treated better than some children. I think I surprised her when I said the first child abuse case was litigated based on animal abuse legislation. According to Marvin Ventrell the first two “modern” cases that were presented specifically “to protect children, entitled Emily and Mary Ellen, never reached the appellate level to create child protection law. However, they did have significant long-term impacts. The cases are strikingly similar; both involved Henry Bergh, the founder of the New York Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Both children were observed being severely beaten by their caretakers: Emily in 1871 and Mary Ellen in 1874. Using a writ de homine replegiando (similar to a writ of habeas corpus), Bergh was able to remove the girls and ultimately have them placed by the New York Special Sessions Court in safe care.” (p. 66)
It wasn’t until 1962 when medicine described “Battered Child Syndrome” in the American Medical Association literature as a grouping of clinical symptoms that people started to realize that significant numbers of children were being battered. In 1967 mandatory reporting of child abuse became law! This was rather late in the history of humankind in my estimation, but it’s true.
I’m praying today for every single child who shivers a bit in fear at the mention of “mother” or “father.” I never had that. May the Lord show me what to do when I sense this fear in another.
Ventrell, M. (January, 2003). The Colorado Lawyer, Colorado Bar Association, pp.65-70.