“Let’s teach that loving isn’t always loving. Like when you loved the hamster so much that it died. Some adults do that too. Too much, the wrong way. These are ‘Stay away’ zones on your body. These are ‘Stay away’ people. You don’t have to obey all adults. Not even parents. Disagree respectfully. Run, if you need. Shout, if you need. Adults can be bad too.” ― Deborah Ainslie, All Flowers Are Not Yellow
The poster obviously refers to the Child Welfare in the US but almost any Social Services Department in the world could have been substituted and it would still be true. It is time for us to stand and say NO MORE.
For years we have asked people to come forward and report suspected child abuse. We have school programmes where we tell the children they should tell someone. We have special departments within schools, police, medicine and our courts to deal with the problem and still we do not believe or support those brave enough to come forward.
If you are an adult who tells, even when you leave your name and stand behind what you saw, you can be in trouble in court, labelled a trouble maker or a liar. The court case becomes about you instead of the abuse.
In Canada, when child abuse is reported by another adult and the child is little, Social Services may investigate, but if they do they will say they did not find any real evidence, the parents had a plausible story and the child is too young to be a reliable witness, even though the child may speak of the abuse. They will close the file. Despite repeated reportings of that same situation over years, Social Services will err on the side of the “plausible explanations” refusing to connect the dots and see a pattern. Evidently everyone else is lying and only the abusing parent is telling the truth.
If the child is older and speaks out for themselves, they may investigate but again because the parent will have a plausible explanation for it, they will say it is the child’s word against the adults, no real evidence, and children are prone to lies. They will say they feel the child is currently “safe” and so no need for intervention. They will close the file.
Once the child is an adult and speaks out to the abuse they suffered they will not investigate anything. There will be no tangible evidence after all those years and it will be their word against another adults, which means it all comes out in the wash. They tell people they survived, they are adults, and they should put it behind them and get on with their lives. Often they will chastise them that they should have spoken up at the time.
I am pretty sure that even a paedophile is capable of coming up with “plausible explanations” when confronted with their crime. I doubt many of them readily admit to their behaviour just because they are asked. I am also convinced that when you make an appointment with someone to come and check if there is any drug paraphernalia next Tuesday at 10:00 AM – even a wired junkie knows to hide his stuff.
If we are going to say that a child is capable of lying about the abuse then why will they not consider that the other children, left in the abusers care, after several days knowing they are going to be interviewed by Social Services, would not also be capable of lying, especially seeing as they are probably also victims? If a parent can coach a child to report abuse, a parent can coach a child to NOT report abuse.
How is this effective investigating?
How do we miss basic signs, the shy child, the child who is suicidal, who is ashamed of their body, who is not connecting normally with other kids or is overtly sexual? What about the aggressive child, the child whose grades suddenly change, the child that suddenly hates their other parent when there has been nothing to cause the sudden change? How do we miss parents who never let the child speak for themselves, or speak to people alone?
How do we miss connecting dots, of behaviour, repeated incidents, aggression, inappropriate boundaries, too much information being shared with children about matters that should not be in front of children?
Why don’t we care? Why aren’t we holding anyone accountable? Why don’t we enforce the existing court orders and the counseling that sometimes gets set up? Why is it ok for parents to lie in family court with little to no consequences? Why aren’t we even more concerned about finding the truth?
We read of abuses within the system that get caught, a commission is called, findings delivered, recommendations made for changes but there is no evidence of them trickling down into the day to day system to benefit the kids.
Even in Canada, after a recent tragedy and a review where they found that Social Services had failed to follow up and do their job, workers continued with the exact same attitude towards their current cases.
The police often say they are waiting on Social Services who say they are waiting on the police and when it gets to court the parents are asked why they did not go to the police or Social Services and refuses to accept that neither would do anything. If you find a police officer who will step up, they are thwarted by Social Services and visa versa.
Is it any wonder that children end up scarred or even dead? Why do we even bother with a Welfare department with our children when at best they do nothing and at worst their interference makes a situation worse. Why do we ask children to speak up when we have no intention of listening to them? Because I can tell you from experience that the courage it takes for a child to speak out against a parent is tremendous. They often have to talk about things that shame them to the core. They are scared of their teachers and of Police Officers and lawyers and counselors. To go through all of that, hanging on to “it’s the right thing to do,” or the idea that they are saving their siblings, is all they have. To not be believed, to have nothing done, to be sent back to that situation . . . it is abuse in and of itself.
Perhaps there should be a full circle. Perhaps the very people who made these decisions about these children’s lives should be held accountable. If something goes wrong, maybe they should be criminally charged – including the judges. Perhaps at the very least they should have to sit down with these kids once they are adults and deal with the lasting impact their decisions had for their lives. Celebrate the successes, learn from their mistakes … but for God’s sake we can’t continue on the way things are now.