The silence on child abuse MUST be shattered!
If you’ve been following my series, thank you and if you have just found it…thank you as well for taking the time to read.
I have no tolerance for child abuse. Children are beautiful and innocent, they are a gift. There is no reason in this entire universe that would make hurting a child ok in my book. I was abused as a child, emotionally, physically and sexually. I know this topic is not comfortable or easy for anyone to talk about or even acknowledge. I know there are some people who will question why I would even “confess” that I was abused. My answer is quite simple, by remaining silent I remain a victim. I am not a victim, I am a survivor. Did it effect me, change me, alter the way I view the world? Yes!!!! It absolutely did! It changed my path in life, it put me in a new direction. However I had a choice to either let it destroy me or to strengthen me. I chose the later. I faced it, I spoke of it, I released the guilt and the shame. I even forgave my abusers. Not for them, for myself. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the offender, it has everything to do with you choosing to let go of bitterness and hate. Not forgiving is only holding onto toxic feelings that only serve to destroy yourself and in by doing so, those that hurt you win. I was not ever going to let the people that hurt me win. It is my life and I was determined to take it back….they could not have it. I will never forget it, it still effects me, it still has an impact on how I see the world. However, it’s what I choose to do with all that that matters now.
From an early adult age I wanted to reach out and help other children, to show them that abuse does not have to define them. They are not the abuse, they should not feel guilt or shame. They didn’t do anything to bring it on, they were not less because of it. Abusers prey on, they hunt and feel out their victims, they manipulate, they are predators ….a child has NO control over this. It is NOT their fault. I wasn’t sure how to reach out and help, but I didn’t let that stop me from trying. At the age of 18 I took a job in a women’s shelter and I worked with the children every day. While Mom was away looking for a job, getting assistance or working on building her own self up to get out of her own abusive situation, I spent my days loving these children, each and everyone of them. I understood them, I related to their acting out, to their tears. I wanted nothing more than to take away all their fears and pain, I did all I could with what I knew to do at the time. I later took a job at a girls group home. Full of teenage girls with demons. Each of them had endured some type of abuse in their life. Because of their anger, shame, guilt and pain they acted out. They knew no other way. Society often looks down on these children as throw aways. Nothing but trouble, put them away, lock them up and toss the key. These children are not toss aways. They need to be loved through their pain, shown a new way, given tools to over come. Both of these jobs (I call them blessing jobs) were tough….it was hard. There were days I didn’t think I could go in and see their pain anymore. I felt their pain as if it were my own…..it was my own pain. I knew their hurt to the very core of me. I can admit, it did become to much for me. I was still in the infancy of my own survival skills. I knew that it was affecting me so much that I was no longer the strength I wanted to be for them. So, I took a very long break. I went and lived my life, moved all over the place, trying to get everything I could out of life. I never forgot, it was always there….they were always there. It was and to this day still is a constant in my life.
Then I became a mom……
Old feelings and fears reared their ugly head with an intensity that took my breath away. This was a combination of new and old fears. I was now a mother and it was going to be over my dead body before I would ever allow anyone to harm my child. With motherhood came a hyper awareness of all children. I was always on alert. I was being called back to do something! I just wasn’t sure how or what. I’ve always been an artist. I’ve always been in love with photographic images that told a story. Fast forward a few years and the idea of doing a fine art photography series grabbed me. I put it off and put it off. I let what others might think of it keep me from doing it. I let my own lack of confidence that I could even do it the way I felt it needed to be done stop me. I dug in deep, I reminded myself that I am a survivor, a fighter and that the abusers should never win. I told myself that if it made people uncomfortable then that was a good thing, You can not ignore this away. By remaining silent I was in fact letting the abusers win, I was allowing it to go un-noticed, I was part of the problem. I could not live with myself knowing this. I want to be a voice and part of the solution. This is my way.
This is a very ugly subject, but my pieces needed to be pretty. I wanted the viewer to be captivated by the innocence and beauty of the child, to be drawn into the image, to feel peace while laying their eyes on the beauty and then to get slapped with the reality of what the story is behind the image. I strive very hard to do this with every piece. My latest one, for me, is my most important and the one with the most impact so far in this series. If I could only do one single image, this would be the one. This one has it all wrapped up in one.
The title is – Don’t See, Hear, Speak
What I am trying to convey with this image is 3 fold. The way society reacts to child abuse by ignoring it, pretending it’s not happening and not listening to their own inner voice when they see or feel a child is being hurt by doing nothing. The child who is manipulated, threatened and groomed to remain silent and put on a faux face that everything is right as rain in their world. The abuser who puts on false charms and fools everyone around that they are kind, giving and would never harm a child. They are masters of disguise. This piece is meant to challenge that, to acknowledge, to say NO MORE. Take the blinders off and see what is right in front of you, uncover your ears… listen to what a child is saying and what they are not saying…believe them, remove the gag from your mouth….speak…use your voice, say something. By remaining in a state of denial or because you simply don’t want to get involved…you are part of the problem. Don’t be a part of the problem….Shatter the silence. Let your voice be louder and make yourself heard.
I am putting in a link here to a story I found about America’s first recognized child abuse case. It is not an easy read, but an important one. We have come a long way since little Mary Ellen’s case, but we still have a long way to go. You can read her story HERE.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read. I welcome your feedback.
Many Blessings to all of you,