Good Intentions Aren’t Enough For Children

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Good Intentions Aren’t Enough for Children

Panel 1

[Image] Two beer bottles on a small table. One is on its side and spilling liquid off the side of the table.

[Caption] 4th grade.

Panel 2

[Image] The table with beer bottles in the foreground. In the background, a girl with pigtails is standing flat against a wall, looking up. Also against the wall are two shadows of a man and a woman, who are facing each other and clearly fighting.

Panel 3

[Image] A closeup of the girl’s face, looking scared and horrified. The shadows on the wall behind her are still fighting. The male shadow looks to be strangling the female shadow.

Panel 4

[Image] The girl, standing in front of a row of lockers, face in her hands, crying. In front of her is an adult woman with short dark hair. The girl’s thought bubble encapsulates the previous three panels.

Panel 5

[Image] The short-haired woman, looking downward. She looks concerned.

Woman: …I have a guest room if you ever need a place to stay, ok?

Panel 6

[Caption] As I child, I didn’t know what I needed, but a guest room wasn’t it.

Panel 7

[Image] A hand holding a flip-style cell phone. On the screen it says “Dialing…911.

[Caption] 11th Grade

Panel 8

[Image] The girl, now grown into a teenager and wearing a ponytail, holding the cell phone. She is standing on the front steps to a house, looking at two police officers walk a man away. Between the girl and the police officers, a woman kneels on the ground, with her head in her hands.

Panel 9

[Image] A man in handcuffs, sitting in a chair. Two angry looking police officers stand behind him.

Panel 10

[Image] The girl, looking sad, still holding the cell phone in front of her. She is looking at a car, and a woman holding open the door. A man is getting out of the car.

Panel 11

[Caption] All he got was anger management sessions, where everyone told him that he was violent because we were poor. He was a victim of society. Not us.

Panel 12

[Image] The girl knocking on a door that has a sign saying “Office.” A woman with short dark hair is opening the door and looking at the girl.

Panel 13

[Image] The girl is sitting in a chair in front of a desk. Behind the desk is the woman with the short dark hair. The girl is slouching in her chair, looking apprehensive. The woman looks concerned.

Girl: ….

Panel 14

[Image] The girl, viewed from the other side of the desk. She is talking, and her hands are raised expressively.

Three speech bubbles indicate her story. Each bubble is a closeup version of the first three panels: the beer bottles, the little girl flat against the wall, and her terrified face.

Panel 15

[Image] The girl, shoulders slumped.

Girl: I need help.

Panel 16

[Image] The girl, sitting across from the woman, who still looks concerned. The girl is still slumped in her chair, but is smiling slightly.

Woman: Yes, of course! Why am I hearing about this for the first time? We’ve known each other for years… I will look into this ok?

Panel 17

[Image] The girl, looking straight at the reader. She looks relieved and hopeful, and is smiling. Her hands are folded in her lap and she is sitting straighter.

[Caption] We never spoke of it again.

Panel 18

[Caption] It’s hard to ask for help. I held on to those people to go to as a trump card, just in case it ever got too bad to handle alone. Then, after going through the embarrassment of opening up, nothing happened. That’s one of the bigger problems with this situation – no one knows what to do. But it’s always harder for the child, and doing nothing has a lasting impact. It shut me up for a long time. It changed me.

Panel 19

[Image] The girl, sitting in front of a row of lockers, knees pulled up to her chin, and her face buried low, eyes closed, arms pulling her knees closer in.

[Caption] I don’t even know if writing this will make a difference.

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Full story

When I was in fourth grade, my dad had gotten drunk again. This time he tried to strangle my mom. My mom, my sister, and I spent the night behind a pizza place in our car. The next day I was tired and cranky and I started crying during class. My teacher took me out into the hall and I told her about what my father had done, and how we’d had to drive to the big city twenty miles from home. She told me that if I ever needed a place to stay, she had a guest room in her basement.

As a child I didn’t know what I needed, but a guest room wasn’t it.

I finally called the police on my father when I was in eleventh grade. It was a desperate call for help to an authority. He was arrested and went away to jail, where my grandparents bailed him out. My mom went and signed paperwork saying that we didn’t need a restraining order and that he could come back to live with us. All he got was a few anger management therapy sessions, where everyone told him that the reason he was violent was due to frustrations from living below poverty level.

He was the victim of society, not us.

When I was a senior in high school, I got the courage to ask my band teacher for help. I told her what was going on. I explained that I was afraid of what might happen when I was at school and couldn’t protect my family. I was seventeen. My teacher asked me why she was hearing about this for the first time, after seven years of knowing me. She told me she’d look into it. It was a cry for help, and I was counting on her.

We never spoke of the matter again.

That’s one of the bigger problems with this situation – people know that you’re supposed to do something, but nobody really has any idea what to do. But it’s always harder for the child asking for help, and not doing anything has a lasting impact.

It’s hard to open up and ask for help. I held on to those people to go to as a trump card, just in case it ever got too bad to handle alone. Then, after going through the embarrassment of trying to explain this situation to someone, nothing happened. It shut me up for a long time. If it didn’t help the first time, why bother asking again?

I think this experience changed me. I am even more independent than before. I worry about not appearing in control of any situation in front of anyone, including people I know. I am sensitive to negativity/criticism more than other people. I’ve grown up believing that everyone on the face of the earth is deep down a cruel, selfish, mouthy jackass.

I don’t even know if writing this will make a difference.

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3 responses to “Good Intentions Aren’t Enough For Children”

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  1. Nadine says: |
    October 28, 2014 at 8:30 am

    I want to say thank you for sharing your story!
    I work with children who are in or have been in abusive homes. It’s the hardest thing in the world as the adult who works with these families to keep “by the book” and that’s this issue I feel that may have failed you in your youth, it’s “the system”
    It doesn’t matter if the child is reaching out, it has to be the mom. Which in my books is ridiculous! I really do wish you had someone like me (my profession, a family support worker) in your life to have helped you and given you support!

    I can only imagine how difficult it was for you to share your story here especially after being let down in the past and I applaud your courage. You are a strong person! Keep your head held high and always remember how strong and amazing you are! Even when times feel tough and dark just remember that you are a strong and amazing person, a survivor! You can get through life’s struggles and feels proud of yourself because you are a warrior!
    And when others try to bring you down, just think about how strong you are for have making it this far on your own and how much further you will go!

  2. Angelina says: |
    October 31, 2014 at 1:27 am

    I’m sorry for your pain. Thank you for sharing your story. All I can think is the raised awareness of situations such as yours (they are unfortunately more common than people want to believe) and also, perhaps someone will read your story and know they’re not alone in the experience. Perhaps it will give them hope.
    As Nadine said, the system is broken, and as you mentioned, people often don’t know how to help. Please don’t stop reaching out. *internet hug*

  3. Eric says: |
    October 31, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Upon reading this, I burst into tears. This was my story, too, for so many years. I dealt with this until I was old enough to move away. I left my mom and brother with yet another abusive husband/boyfriend, and that cycle continued for even more years. It’s true that not much help can come when the mother agrees to not press charges and gets back together, temporary relief at best.

    There are so many others out there who share your pain with this, and even telling your story in this way will help others, if only to know they are not alone and that the system *is* broken and needs fixing.

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