This I Believe

Irina - Chico, California
Entered on May 10, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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Please, Don’t Hurt Your Children

Being brought up in Russia, I went through rather hard experience. My father was abusive, as many other parents in Russia are. He used to take his every frustration out on me with a belt or paddle, often leaving my body as one big bruise. Even though my mother didn’t engage in the actual punishment, she believed that when I did something wrong I deserved to be punished. My classmates and I used to discuss the creativity of our parents in terms of what methods they would use to punish us for doings we often couldn’t understand, like having candy wrappers under your pillow, toys on the floor after you had a six year old friend over or the worst, spilling water on the floor when you were taking a bath. The worst part about the whole punishment process was that my father would always let me know that he was going beat me and that I must be ready for it. But what can you do? All I could do was to ask use the restroom, sit there as long as I could and wish that there was a lock on the inside. When I grew older my father started showing signs of sexual attraction toward me when he was drunk. Unwittingly and luckily for me, my mother divorced him in time never realizing the impact that he had on me and my future. I consider myself lucky since it didn’t get worse than the beatings and I was able to turn this into learning experience that made me stronger. But more importantly, it made me believe that there is no place for child abuse in this so called civilized world.

Now that I’m grown and live here in the US, I work with Severely Emotionally Disturbed children in a residential treatment facility located on a 1000 acre ranch. Many of them are victims of severe physical and/or sexual abuse, which has changed the way they see this world. They will never be the same carefree children, they wish to be. When these children first come to us they don’t trust anyone including themselves. They are angry, hurt, confused and often suicidal. They are unable explain why they have all these overwhelming emotions and too afraid to ask for help. Most of the time, the only way these abused children are able to convey their feelings is through aggression toward others and themselves. For some of them it might take years of staying in the place like this ranch to start learning trusting other people, being able to cope with their tragic experience and believing that some good things can still happen to them. Working with these children takes a lot of energy, patience, understanding and faith, which are qualities that their parents often lacked. Only by working closely with these children can we understand the extent of this epidemic tragedy and question the humanness of our world.