- Posted January 17, 2014 by
South River, New Jersey
Living in a Society That Codones Child Torture
By Linda Girgis, MD, FAAFP
I just returned from the dentist where I saw the news on tv of little Myles Dobson, a 4 year old boy who met his death by torture and neglect in NY. A boy unwanted and rejected by society and now lies unclaimed on a cold mortuary slab waiting for custody to be decided over his burial. My heart shatters for him. His story was mine, except mine had a very different ending: I survived. I bet if he lived, he would have been one of us who truly succeeded. It is too bad so many turned a cold eye to his abuse. Because I know there were others who knew what was happening to him. I know because I lived his life.
Most kids are afraid of the invisible monster that is hiding under their beds that may come out to get them. Unfortunately for many, those monsters are very real and are people who are close to those children. Children need to be loved and supported but what happens when those who have the responsibility to nurture them instead turn around and abuse them? What happens when they become real monsters and cause real harm? Who is going to help these kids? Is child abuse allowed to continue because people are unaware of its existence? Or is it something just too hideous to believe that it is real? Or worse yet: we are just too apathetic because it should be someone else’s problem to get involved?
I grew up with a real monster under my bed. I was physically abused in many ways, told I was too ugly and stupid to be alive repeatedly over many years, among many horrid things. As a child, our only point of reference are our parents. What happens in a child’s mind when all they hear is how ugly and stupid they are? They believe it. It is not like when someone thinks they are ugly. It becomes so ingrained in the mind that being stupid and ugly is the same as having brown hair and green eyes. It is just the way you were born and there is nothing you can do to change it.
Can you remember the most humiliating thing that ever happened to you growing up? I have had many. It wasn’t being knocked off my tricycle with a baseball bat just because my father had a bad day at work. And then going to the ER to have my mouth sutured up because my lip was busted open. It wasn’t listening to my parents tell the doctor that I had fallen off my bike, and I knew I was not allowed to tell the truth or he would kill me. The most humiliating thing was the taste of my own blood in my mouth and the fact that I could not stop it. That no one cared that this happened to me, not even the doctors at the hospital. This was one of my first childhood memories. I think I was 4 at the time.
Growing up as I did, I know that people knew what was happening in my house. Other kids would ask me if my father was crazy. Looking back at it, I think he was a true psychopath. But, at the time, I did not know what he was doing to me was not OK. I thought it was my fault for being born retarded and a freak. That this is what caused him to do these things.
Who was worse? My psychopathic father who liked to torture little kids, or the society who watched and stood back and did nothing? Apathy kills. Children die of abuse every single day. Why does no one bother to love them? Little kids who have not a chance at life to do any wrong yet are horribly brutalized just for existing.
My abuse continued until I was 18. I was beaten many times. Was the bat worse or the metal end of the belt? Pain is pain after awhile. We learn how to take it and brace our bodies for the blow. We get numb to it. I have a very high pain tolerance these days. I often wonder if my pain receptors were beaten until they broke.
People are often amazed at my creativity. Not much else to think about being locked in the basement with the dog. I would sit and fantasize about my rescue. I believed in superheroes. Until the day I realized that superheroes don’t exist for white trash like me. The day I realized there was no hope of anyone every coming to save me, to help me, to love me. And then I began to dream of my escape. I left home after I graduated high school and never went back. I have worked 3-4 jobs at a time to work my way through college. And I did it. I succeeded. And then I did it again: medical school.
Although I am very successful today, I still sometimes look for the monster under my bed. I still look over my shoulder to see if my father is behind me with a hammer. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night having a night mare and can feel his hands around my neck from the few times he tried to strangle me in my sleep. To this day, I cannot sleep with my feet under the covers. What if they get caught when I have to escape?
It has been estimated that 30% of abused kids go on to abuse their own kids. What makes the difference between someone who perpetuates the cycle and someone who breaks through to overwhelming success?
Are you going to stand up and be a superhero for a child? It doesn’t take much. Just one phone call.
Please help there be no more Myles Dobsons in the world. He was just a child and did not deserve anything that happened to him. Let this tragedy spur us to stand up against this very common evil.