Date of Award
Languages & Literature
Most people take the goodness of childhood for granted. The usual childhood is a carefree period, a part of our heritage of being treasured, wanted, loved and cared for. Those who have been fortunate in having such a carefree childhood are often unaware of the child/adult whose heritage includes neither the security of being welcome, nor, sometimes, having even the basic satisfaction of food. Because most people have a memory of goodness in their own childhood, they are unable to see those thousands who, according to Dr. Leontine Young in his book Wednesday’s Children, "...are neglected by parents too empty themselves to give to the life they have brought into the world. They cannot imagine children tormented by parents who see in helplessness a chance to hurt, not a need to protect. ..." That is the enduring reality of child abuse: there is no memory or experience of parental love; there are no positive emotional patterns established within the child which will foster his own self-esteem and dignity or help him establish loving and supportive relationships with others as he grows into maturity. Such complex, positive emotional patterns are simply absent. Instead, an abused child grows to maturity an emotional cripple, if the abuse doesn't kill him first.
The abused child has difficulty putting his childhood behind him. He grows up, carrying his "dis-ease" with him. Unless he makes a tremendous and unusual effort, chances are, he will remain crippled his whole life, duplicating his destructive emotional set within his own marriage and his own parenthood. At best, the abused child/ adult will be able to develop some insight into his own behavior and feelings in an attempt to alter his own destructive patterns and attain a degree of emotional peace, finally reconciling himself to living in an emotional world uninhabited by those who grew up more normally. At worst, he will end in prison after unleashing his aggression and hatred upon an unsuspecting society. Our prisons are full of men and women with a history of childhood abuse. Acccording to a survey conducted at San Quentin prison several years ago, of 400 male prisoners who had been convicted of bodily injury crimes, such as murder, 100% had a history of child abuse in their own childhood. Such a loss to society is staggering. The anguish of the individual, first as a victim, then as a perpetrator, can never be recounted. There is a discernible pattern to child abuse in the family, in the parents and in the child. The abusive home is not the "normal" home with its highs and lows, and its occasional anger and arguments disrupting the usual peace. Alcoholism and poverty may be present, but they are not the cause of abusive behavior. Hatred, fear and anger cause abuse. However, all of us experience those emotions, but we all do not turn those emotions against our children. Most of us do not because we do not expect our child to solve our problems for us; the abusive parent does. He often expects his child to parent him, which, of course, a child cannot do. The abusive parent will also often pick one child out of several as his target. That child often reminds him of his own parent whom he hated, or he simply believes the child is "different" or is an "animal." The child becomes the battering target, ridding the parent temporarily of his anger, to the child's detriment and to the parent's anguish. The anger and hatred recycle themselves, appearing again and again.
Basta, Iris, "Suffer The Little Children" (1983). Languages and Literature Undergraduate Theses. 63.