Tag Archives: Child Abuse

Dylan Farrow’s Open Letter: What Would You Do?

I was thinking, if I don’t speak out, I’ll regret it on my death bed.” Dylan Farrow

candle lit for victims of violence

candle lit for victims of violence

Dylan Farrow, 28, is the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. In 1992, at age 7, she accused Woody Allen of sexually abusing her. The ensuing custody battle case wound its way through the courts eventually giving Mia custody of the children and exonerating Mr. Allen of child molestation. Frank Maco, a Connecticut prosecutor on the case, admitted that there was enough evidence – “probable cause” – to charge Mr. Allen with molestation, but that he chose not to pursue it because he didn’t want to traumatize Dylan any further.

Nicolas Kristoff’s blog post: nytimes.com/ontheground prepares us for Dylan Farrow’s painful Open Letter about her molestation, as a child, at the hands of her dad, Film maker Woody Allen. He shares the back story of this family tragedy; including the fact that he reached out to Woody Allen for comments on both articles and to address Dylan’s 1992 allegations of abuse. Mr. Allen declined to comment. The question that kept coming up as I read both articles was: What Would I Do? What Would You Do?

That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up. I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls. I was terrified of being touched by men. I developed an eating disorder. I began cutting myself. Dylan Farrow via NYTimes

Reading Dylan Farrow’s Open Letter was quite upsetting. It broke my heart and left me wondering why our society won’t fully accept that, like the rest of us, celebrities have flaws; they have proclivities that are objectionable too. It took enormous courage for Dylan to step back into the limelight and write about an incredibly painful time in her life. Taking the time to craft a letter detailing memories of molestation is never easy. It demands a willingness to expose oneself to both criticism and care… this was not an easy feat for her.

What would I do? First of all, speaking up about the abuse takes courage and is a critical step to exposing the perpetrator(s). According to RAINN.Org (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), 60% of victims don’t file a report. It is important to let someone know. In Dylan’s case, she told her mother, Mia. It is also imperative to file a police report because the police will help document information needed for that first step to prosecution. Seeking legal counsel and definitely therapeutic care are necessary steps to ensure the offender is held accountable and the healing process can begin.

But sexual abuse claims against the powerful stall more easily. There were experts willing to attack my credibility. There were doctors willing to gaslight an abused child. Dylan Farrow via NYTimes

What can we do as parents? What can we do to protect our sons and daughters? I like RAINN’s five tips: Talk openly and build trust so they won’t need to hide information from you. Teach them safety rules and what’s unacceptable touching. Empower them to speak out and say NO to abuse. Implement safety guidelines and parental controls on the internet through the Google Family Safety Center and have regular discussions about online and offline safety with your kids. Educate yourself and your family about the warning signs of abuse and act quickly to stop it. If you’re a teacher, pay attention to your students and report your concerns to the authorities. Each of us can be an extra pair of eyes and help stop abuse.

RAINN’s statistics show that 2/3 of assaults are committed by people we know, and 38% of rapes by friends. The lingering pain that comes from such a betrayal of trust can be debilitating and, when we factor in a family member, the damage to the relationship can be permanent. Parents of young children must start early educating them about sexual abuse; especially about inappropriate touching. If you or your child has been victimized, don’t blame yourself for what happened. It’s not your fault. Report it to the authorities. Seek the support of trusted friends and family and the help of a skilled therapist; both are key steps to healing and full recovery. Healing will come with time…


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Inspiration: My Name Is Luka…

“From small acorns, mighty oak trees grow…”   Geoffrey Chaucer’sTroilus and Criseyde

Inspiration: My Name Is Luka...

Suzanne VegaLuka

My name is Luka – Lyrics via azlyrics.com
I live on the second floor
I live upstairs from you
Yes I think you’ve seen me before

If you hear something late at night
Some kind of trouble. some kind of fight
Just don’t ask me what it was
Just don’t ask me what it was
Just don’t ask me what it was… Contd below

25 years ago today, Suzanne Vega wrote and performed a song, My Name Is Luka, about child abuse that became a huge hit. When it came out in 1987, I listened to it incessantly. It struck a nerve with many people; child abuse survivors and advocates alike. The song was somewhat couched in careful words; just like a scared kid would do when the abuser has cautioned him/her to not say anything. When Suzanne performed the song today on Soundcheck/WNYC, it brought a flood of tears and memories of that period; a reminder that whether we are a mandated reporter, a victim of domestic violence, a product of  a dysfunctional family and more, we can all make a difference in the life of a child. We must speak up.

“Children are living beings – more living than grown-up people who have built shells of habit around themselves. Therefore it is absolutely necessary for their mental health and development that they should not have mere schools for their lessons, but a world whose guiding spirit is personal love.” Rabindranath Tagore

Inspiration: My Name Is Luka... Suzanne Vega

Intro to CDF – Children’s Defense Fund via Marian Wright Edelman

I think it’s because I’m clumsy
I try not to talk too loud
Maybe it’s because I’m crazy
I try not to act too proud

They only hit until you cry
After that you don’t ask why
You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore… Contd below

According to the Child Welfare.Gov site, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since that first proclamation  in 1983, we have come to see April as “a time to recognize that we can each play a part in promoting the social and emotional well-being of children and families in communities.”  Even though the first Federal child protection legislation, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), was passed in 1974, we remain a nation with growing concerns for the welfare and safety of all our children.

Every day, an innocent child dies from neglect or abuse; often at the hand of a family member. Every month, we gather to commiserate over another news media report on the subject. Every year,  the numbers of children who died from neglect and/or abuse increases. As shown below, while the numbers of fatality figures from 2009 might seem small, there is still reason to be concerned. We can act and there are tons of organizations that would appreciate our support. I’ve added several in the last paragraph of this post below…

The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) reported an estimated 1,770 child fatalities in 2009. This translates to a rate of 2.34 children per 100,000 children in the general population. NCANDS defines “child fatality” as the death of a child caused by an injury resulting from abuse or neglect, or where abuse or neglect was a contributing factor. The number and rate of fatalities have been increasing during the past few years… (Update 2010 figures) A nationally estimated  1,560 children (compared with 1,750 children for FFY 2009) died from abuse and neglect. The national fatality rate per 100,000 children in the population was 2.07 for FFY 2010 compared with a national fatality rate of 2.32 for FFY 2009.During FFY 2010, an estimated 695,000 children in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were maltreated…

“It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature’s gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever.”  Jimmy Carter

Inspiration: My Name Is Luka...

Children’s Rights: Silent Voices

Yes I think I’m okay
I walked into the door again
Well, if you ask that’s what I’ll say
And it’s not your business anyway
I guess I’d like to be alone
With nothing broken, nothing thrown
Just don’t ask me how I am [X3]
My name is Luka
I live on the second floor
I live upstairs from you
Yes I think you’ve seen me before… Contd below

Even with community effort, education, and the support of organizations that advocate for children, it is important to find additional resources to create preventive programs to help families at risk. Childwelfare.gov has initiated plans for Preventing Child Abuse & Neglect. They include suggestions on; Strengthening families, building public awareness & creating supportive communities, establishing standards for Prevention programs, developing & sustaining prevention programs, maintaining an Evidence-based practice  and evaluating the overall effectiveness of prevention programs. Additionally, Childwelfare.gov is an advocate of what it calls the 6 Protective Factors: Nurturing and Attachment, Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, Parental Resilience, Social Connections, Concrete Supports for Parents, Social and Emotional Competence of Children. For more details on the above factors/headings, visit the Child Welfare.gov site and section on prevention tools. Every child deserves a chance at life and some of this information might hit home if you or someone you know is a survivor of child abuse.  The Luka song is powerful and painful but can be cathartic if we act to help bring change.  More on organizations that help advocate for children’s rights below. More Below!

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Precious: The Grace in Small Acts of Kindness…

Precious: The Grace in Small Acts of Kindness…

“Grace is the absence of everything that indicates pain or difficulty, hesitation or incongruity.” William Hazlitt

GodsGrace by night86mare Flickr

God's Grace: Prevails... by Night86mare via Flickr

When someone walks in and shatters your life at 12, 21 or any age, it takes tremendous grace to turn away from taking the road to abject despair, to finding the courage to regroup and rebuild a life. It also takes a simple, small gesture of kindness, the grace of a hug, a smile, a tender glance, a comforting word, to steer one away from misery to the miraculous… The film Precious is a miracle of grace; the grace shared through small acts of kindness.

Precious is the newly released film about the compelling story of a young woman, Claireece “Precious” Jones, who overcomes a life of despicable terror at the hands of her parents and triumphs in the face of incredible obstacles. The movie is a riveting adaptation of the powerful novel, PUSH, by author/poet/activist Sapphire.

As protagonist, the 16 year old, African-American, Harlem raised teen, Precious, personifies both everything we abhor and fear we might become; a victim of incest, child abuse, depraved parents, pregnant with her father’s 2nd child, overweight, illiterate, HIV positive, homophobic, xenophobic, self-hating, and everything we champion her to become; courageous, accomplished and free from oppression.

“God appoints our graces to be nurses to other men’s weaknesses.” Henry Ward Beecher


Sundance Premiere via Zimbio/Google Images: Gabby Sidibe, Mariah Carey, Lee Daniels, Mo'Nique and Paula Patton

Watch CBS News Videos Online Katie Interview with Sapphire

According to the author Sapphire, in a recent interview with Katie Couric on CBS, Precious is a composite of many young women, (and perhaps older women), she met/knew during the years she taught/counseled young women who were survivors of horrific abuse. These women though damaged by abuse and deep in the recovery process, had such strong spirits of defiance and a will to survive that it helped give the author the impetus to create her classic novel ~ PUSH.

While the name Precious might seem ironic for a character that is treated as irrelevant and suffers horrific abuse, her name should be a constant reminder to all of us to treat each other with compassion and care. If we are galvanized to, at least, identify/report abuse and help another find hope and a chance at life, then, we have made a great difference in someone’s life.

Precious speaks for those silent and/or silenced by abuse and God’s grace and people’s grace guide her to push past her hurt and accomplish what she is destined to do and become. We can all be angels of light on this journey called life and every random act of kindness reverberates throughout the earth and touches many others in its stead. The grace in small things endures.

“Grace has been defined as the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.” William Hazlitt

Refracted Mandala

Refracted Mandala: We Stumble towards Light with varying degrees of Grace

For Precious, the grace and blessings in small things came through acts of selflessness and kindness shown to her by others; the teacher (Ms. Rain) who diligently helps her learn to read; the social worker (Mrs. Weiss) and nurse (Kravitz’s character) who encourage her to both seek help and find her own inner courage and goodness. Each person offered a glimpse of hope, a moment of grace to push Precious forward in her journey to redemption from oppression and dysfunction. It takes one person to step forward and extend a helping hand to another soul…

The generosity others showed Precious in the film reminded me of an incident many years ago, before ATMs, when I found myself stranded in a big city with no means to get back to my original destination. I walked into a bank, quite distraught, and a kind teller gave me just enough to get me home. She graciously accepted the check I gave her, drawn on another bank, but never cashed it. Her kindness has stayed with me.

“Grace is from our side a choice, from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest by the Most High. Our ”accepting” and ”willing” are reactions rather than actions. The right of determination must always remain with God.” A. W. Tozer

Glass Mandala lotus by Suki Quin

Glass Mandala Lotus: The Grace in all Things... via Suki Quin

A spiritual teacher once said that when we pray or ask for grace, we must seek the highest good and ask for God’s grace and people’s grace. After all, it is at each others hands that we learn to love, experience life, see the face and grace of God.

Where has grace touched you? Who has shown you a small act of kindness, a much needed glance? Who have you helped today? Share your thoughts.

God’s Grace by Night86mare ~ via Flickr
Precious Sundance Premiere ~ via Zimbio/Google Images
Refracted Mandala by F. Decomite – via Flickr/Google Images
Glass Mandala lotus by Suki Quin ~ via Google Images
Videos ~ via CBS News and YouTube

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank