Child Interrupted

This is a subject I shy away from here on my blog mostly because, if I've learned anything through my long life, it's that people don't want to hear about it. From strangers to my own mother, the subject of child abuse—especially child sexual abuse—is one they'd rather me shut up about because no one wants me to blow their tidy image of what childhood was like for me and how it still affects me half a century later.

I'm one of the fortunate ones. I somehow was able to analyze my abuse as I grew into adulthood, neither allowing it to destroy me nor causing me to repeat it. Sure, I know that all of the partying and wild living of my late 20s and 30s was part of a self-destructive cycle, but I pulled out of that as well.

So here is the obligatory disclaimer: If you don't want to know about child abuse of others, or perhaps face the fact that you might be an adult survivor yourself, click off of this page now.It's my opinion that America is a nation of child abuse victims. It explains the self-mutilation, the self-destruction, the suicide rate, the movies glorifying murder, rape, torture and death, and all of the violence in our streets and schools. It's obviously the cause of abuse in the homes, so it has to spill out into the world from both conscious and unconscious motivations. Besides, the statistics stand behind me. An estimated 906,000 children are victims of abuse every year and the rate of victimization is 12.3 children per 1,000 children. We are a nation acting out our fear, paranoia, apathy, violence, obesity, over-spending, depression and isolation. If America were a person lying on a psychiatric couch, the physician would certainly begin asking questions about abuse.

What brought this subject to my mind today was my own ongoing self-analysis. I began wondering (not for the first, or even the one-hundredth time, I can assure you) what I would be like if I'd not been abused. Who would I be? Would I be a retired rock star by now? Would I have more confidence? Would I enjoy better physical health? I'm very proud of myself for the way I've turned out. It was no accident; I carefully and tenaciously re-invented myself, drawing on images of how I wish I were. Transferring my abuse onto others has never been an issue since I've never been a violent person nor a pedophile, but I admit that I was self-destructive, as I mentioned earlier. Age, as well as the love of my spouse and children, took care of most of that, although every once in a while I wish I could just trash myself on drugs and alcohol. But reality being what it is, I cannot and will not do that. I'm wiser now and I'm not ashamed to blow my own horn about it. Nor do I regret those wild escapades. That would be as stupid as doing them in the first place.

There is a little child in me who sometimes keeps me from living fully actualized, regardless of how I try to "manage" her. She sits on a cold bathroom floor, laying her face against the toilet seat, gagging as she cleans her brother's semen off of her. She is anywhere from the age of 2 to age 11. Her bottom, as well as the backs of her legs and lower back are welted from a doubled black leather belt wielded by her mother. She wants to keep me in that bathroom with her, but I cannot stay. I look in the window from outside coaxing her to come out, but she cannot force herself up onto her weak legs. She is too wounded, too traumatized. After years of trying to be her champion, of holding her close and telling her she's safe at last, she only turns her head and continues her retching. The truly sad thing is that there is a girl just like her next door and a little boy on the next street, another girl in the next town and yet another in the next state. There are millions of these children across our country, and it's killing us as a nation.

Sometimes I wonder what this country would be like in a couple of generations if certain adults could get it through their sick heads that children are neither their blow-up dolls, nor their punching bags, nor the receptacles of their own pain; if they would be self-accountable, face their own demons, and say, "Enough is enough!"

Imagine it. Create it.