Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A waste of life

A few weeks ago a horrible act occurred in my hometown. It not only happened in the town I grew up in, the place that helped define who I am today, but it happened steps away from my grandmother's home.

A woman, whose face I recognized from the hallways of my high school, allegedly killed her two year old daughter. The girl was found in her mother's apartment with multiple bruises to the face, neck and torso and could not be revived. I won't go into what the neighbors speculate happened to the girl, but as I sat in my grandmother's living room listening to the rumors I held Chicky in my lap tighter and tighter and the knot in my stomach threatened to evict the lunch I had just eaten. It's just too horrible to think about.

After we become parents news of a child's brutal death affects us in such a way to bring the Mama or Papa Bear out of even the most placid person. But when it happens so close to home, in a neighborhood where I spent a good portion of my formative years playing pickle in the street, where my sister and I and cousins and friends spent our falls throwing horse chestnuts at each other... Well, I don't know quite how to describe how I felt. Violated? Betrayed?

Yes, this does have to do with me. Not just because it happened in a place where I am familiar but because I am a mother. I know what it feels like to want to squeeze the arm of my child a little tighter than is necessary, hoping the pressure will stop whatever tantrum is happening in its tracks. I know what level of frustration a toddler can drive you to. I know the ugly thoughts that can pop into an otherwise rational woman's head when her child is wailing for seemingly no good reason and can not be consoled.

But I can not understand how a woman can (allegedly) beat the life out of her child.

According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) data for 2004 children under four accounted for 81% of fatalities due to abuse and neglect. They are the most vulnerable because of their dependency, size and inability to defend themselves. And one or both parents were involved in 78.9 percent of child abuse or neglect fatalities.

Deaths from abuse and neglect are often from chronic extended malnourishment, acute neglect - like a child left unsupervised in bathtub who drowns - or physical abuse.

The study goes on to say: "There is no single profile of a perpetrator of fatal child abuse, although certain characteristics reappear in many studies. Frequently, the perpetrator is a young adult in his or her mid-20s, without a high school diploma, living at or below the poverty level, depressed, and who may have difficulty coping with stressful situations. In many instances, the perpetrator has experienced violence first-hand. Most fatalities from physical abuse are caused by fathers and other male caretakers. Mothers are most often responsible for deaths resulting from child neglect."

In this particular case the woman was not well off, the father was not in the picture (he is in jail himself for something unrelated), there is speculation of drug use and previous depression. But abuse, as said above, knows no socio-economic boundaries. It goes back to the saying "You need a license to drive a car, catch a fish, or own a dog but anyone can be a parent". It could happen anywhere, in any neighborhood. This case just happened to occur in a neighborhood I am very familiar with. And it troubles me.

My grandmother did not know of any prior abuse. She didn't know the woman and her child as they were relatively new to the neighborhood, and never saw anything out of the ordinary. The woman's friends all called her a "loving mother", though some changed their tune after being present at the arraignment.

But I'm willing to bet that if there was prior abuse someone knew about it.

If you know of a child being abused, or you suspect that one is, please contact the appropriate authorities. Call your local Child Protective Services (CPS) agency. This site has a list of hotline numbers by state. Or contact your local police and they'll point you in the right direction.

Or if you are close to someone, a mother or a father, who is close to the deep end help them get help.

I'm not an expert on this subject, just a concerned parent. If you know of any information that might be helpful to someone in this situation please add it in the comments and I'll also add it to this post.


Sarahviz said...

Excellent post. It's just so sad. I hate watching the news for that very reason. Any tragedies that befall children, especially at the hands of their VERY OWN PARENTS just make me sick to my stomach.

Avalon said...

So terribly sad. Her death was probably just the end of a short, tortured life for both of them.

OhTheJoys said...

I'm so sorry this happened. and extra sorry it happened so close to home.

Julie Pippert said...

Yes, when these things happen, I feel the same way that you describe.

In fact, at a family dinner the other night my FIL wanted to regale us with a horrible and tragic local story, one I have been avoiding, feeling a little too raw about it all lately. I asked politely that we please not discuss it at all, especially not in front of me or at dinner. He could NOT stop himself. I was about ready to excuse myself from the table, when my MIL said he needed to shut up.

It seems rampant down here. The most egregious cases of abuse ending in death are right nearby, actually.

And the news revels in it, like pigs in muck.

This is why I don't watch local news. It's salacious enjoyment of tragedy, rather than a good call to action like you have here.

I'm sorry this one hit so close to home.

It's such a hard thing, all around: knowing about it, tragedy from it, and speculating if it is happening.

Jacquie said...

That poor little girl. May she rest in peace now.

As a mother of 3 I too have heard the news stories and thought WTH??? How can "parents" do that. It is very tragic to say the least.

Makes me wanna hug the girls even more.

Anonymous said...

Call me weak, but I couldn't even finish reading your post. It devastates and depresses me to read and hear about the abuses or deaths of young children.

I can't handle it. I don't get hour a parent can cause harm to their child. Don't they see the beautiful life inside their eyes?

I'm crying as I write this. It makes me sick and it makes me uncomfortable. It makes me nervous and scared and fearful. It makes me angry. It makes me pray.

I pray that the little girl is being taken care of in Heaven. I know many people don't believe in that and that's fine...but it's the one thing that allows me to rest easier. Knowing that God has ended that child's suffering.

I can't stop crying.

Anonymous said...

how. not hour. sorry for the spelling error.

kittenpie said...

So, so sad. So sad that in many cases, it's a cycle of abuse, or preventable if the person had realized they were moving towards something horrible and sought some help in coping.

There was a child here years ago who was killed by her father after a few years of abuse, her mother silent and helping to dispose of the body, likely a victim of abuse herself. The father wanted to keep it out of the news to preserve his good name in his community. He didn't think this was a big problem, just a family matter.

People are so, so farked.

Amie Adams said...

That poor, poor baby. I hope she is now playing and loved among the stars.

Lawyer Mama said...

How horrible. I feel sick.

I have a post in me about something similar that I will right someday, but it's so hard to even *think* about the death of a child right now. So hard.

I do have one thing to add - Most CPS hotlines will allow you to report something anonymously, or at least they will not tell the person being investigated who reported them. I know the first thing most people say is "I didn't want to get involved."

Blog Antagonist said...

Horrible thing, child abuse. We all think someone else is doing something. Great post Mrs. Chicky. Great reminder that when children suffer, it's the responsiblity of all of us.

Kyla said...

How terrible. Like Julie, I can't watch the local news. There is always a child being hurt...and the media is right there exploiting it. It is good for us to be aware of it, but the news seems to take it beyond that.

Good sad, but you gave great information.

Karianna said...

Oh, I hate that feeling of vulnerability and sadness that comes from learning of a tragedy that hits home in some way, be it geographic, emotional, or familiar.

karengreeners said...

This is the very worst kind of news.

Amy said...

It takes a lot of rage to beat someone - especially someone so defenseless - to death.

This hurts me deeply. Thank you for lifting the rock.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Lawyer Mama - Thank you for pointing that out! You're right, sometimes people are afraid to get involved and that fear keeps them from doing the right thing.

painted maypole said...

wonderful and heartfelt, about a tough subject. I remember reading about a child who was beaten to death under a blanket, because the stepfather wanted her to "stop squirming" horrifying. just yesterday I wrote a post about child pornography. it just hits so close to home as parents, no?

Major Bedhead said...

I had to skim this post because it's just too painful to read about. I refuse to watch the local news for the same reason. It's too hard, it makes me too sad and I just can't handle it. I'm not even going to Google this, even though I have a good idea of where you are located. I don't. want. to. know.

I grew up next door to abuse and know first hand the damage it can do to a person. I wouldn't hesitate to contact the authorities if I knew of such a situation.

flutter said...

I am trying not to cry, audibly while reading this. I just don't get it, I just don't.

Girlplustwo said...

you are heart breaks every time now, so much more since becoming a mom. it's unfathomable.

i've seen a lot of abuse, but after M came along i actually HAD to switch roles...i couldn't do it every day anymore and not lose my mind.

good on you for this post.

mamatulip said...

How terribly sad.

Mrs Big Dubya said...


she said as she sat at her desk crying for that poor little baby

Mrs. Schmitty said...

I gasped out load after reading just a few sentences. Things like this bring me to tears. Yes, I too know what it's like when your children are strong willed and out of control, but to harm them in such a way, I just don't understand it.

Nichole said...

That poor child. Sadly, these stories are a dime a dozen. My mother related a horrible story to me the other day that I won't disclose here, and I begged her to just stop talking.

Thanks for putting your concern out there, and the helpful link.

Keeping It Real said...

Hard as it is to believe, this type of horrible tragedy happens much too frequently.

I honestly believe some folks just shouldn't be allowed to reproduce.

Mom101 said...

Oh Jesus. Good on you for taking this heinousness and turning it into something productive.

moosh in indy. said...

My husband sat in on a case today involving the shooting of a 2 year old and 5 year old that happened only moments away from out house.
Ill, it just makes me ill.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Wow; those cases always really, really bum me out. I'm sorry it hit so close to home.

Redneck Mommy said...

My heart hurts for that poor child. May she rest in peace.

How the fuck (pardon my language...I'm beyond angry right now) can these people have children and keep them only to abuse them till death.

Here I am with my hubs, on our hands and knees begging to have one of these kids and the government is putting up every roadblock known to mankind.

If someone had stepped in earlier that little girl may have had a chance...with her mother, or with a new family.

The whole backwardness of this system just irks me.

Thanks for sharing this, Chick. Good on you.

Namito said...

Horrible. And one of those things that is so awful to think about, that we often don't, until it happens right in front of us.

Re Mrs. Lawyer...a good thing to know about CPS. Non-direct intervention is the safest way for all concerned.

What I've carried over from my years as a DV hot line counselor, is that it is not safe to get directly involved...and I don't mean not safe for the intervener (though it can be)...but for the victim. Direct intervention can escalate an already volatile situation into something deadly.

Here's another list of references I found:

A powerful message, Mrs. Chicky. And spot on advice. The best thing we can do is to help people to help themselves.

kristi said...

A few years ago, a man in our town killed his wife and daughter. The daughter went to my kids' I saw her a lot. I mourned for this family and still to this day don't understand what brings a person to do such a thing.

Anonymous said...

The older I get, the harder it is for me to imagine. OK, I imagine smacking my kid pretty regularly, but I cannot concieve of actually doing it, let alone really harming him. As I get older, I cannot imagine this kind of thing happening, even though it was my life as a child.

Hugs your kids tightly.