October 23, 2012

Question 13: Consequences

Were there legal or other punitive consequences for your father and stepmother? Apart from the teachers who you mention, did other adults in your life help you? My hope is that your stepmother was held accountable in some way.

This is as good an opportunity as any to tell you that my memoir, Behind the Woodpile, is now available on Amazon. You can read it on a Kindle or using the Kindle app on your cell phone, tablet, or computer. I will probably eventually release it on other e-platforms. This Thursday, Behind the Woodpile will be free for just one day on Amazon. I hope you’ll spread the word about the book and help others to find it. Please mention the book (and the free promotion on Thursday) on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and the neighborhood corkboard at the library. Please also consider reviewing it on Amazon (and giving lots of stars) and Goodreads. In other words, please TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT, because I’ve found that every time I speak or write about my childhood, it reaches people who are then able to finally speak about their own childhood abuse.

OK, promo time over. To the question. Legal consequences? No. They kept their son and faced no charges. At all. Other than us leaving, there were no practical consequences. But remember what Albus Dumbledore tells Harry Potter about Voldemort’s horcruxes: there are things one does that split one’s soul. To repeatedly harm children must be one of those things.

No other adults helped beyond those I mentioned in the book. Adults like to look the other way if they can, because it’s hard work taking down a child abuser. It’s easier to hope it’s not happening. No one wants to be demonized for falsely accusing someone, and it’s not like abusers hang out a big sign on the front lawn. You can be wrong, and so people assume other adults are innocent until proven guilty. But who is going to prove someone guilty?

That’s what makes the adults who did help such superheroes. They stuck their necks out for two kids who had nowhere to turn. And that’s one reason why I talk so much about what happened, because I want people to know it is very possible that what you’re seeing is what you think it is.

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  • Reply Tragic Sandwich October 23, 2012 at 2:22 am

    I just bought your book. I’m not sure I’m “looking forward” to reading it, because I don’t enjoy reading about someone else’s true unhappiness. But I want to read it, because I appreciate your blog and your honesty and the way you talk to your children.

    And also because my childhood was incredibly happy–but there were other children around me who, as I look back, were not as lucky in their parents as I were. I remember a story about one little girl who, based on how she approached a boy in her class, was clearly being sexually abused by someone. But even fewer people were attuned to that at the time. The way to attune more people is to talk about it. Thank you for doing that.

  • Reply Anonymous October 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    The simplest explanation is usually the right one. If your gut tells you a child is probably bring abused, trust your instincts. No one will be harmed by a call to the police or CPS if it’s not really abuse, but if it is, and you don’t say anything, the child may not get another chance to have someone help them escape.

  • Reply magpiemusing October 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I’ll post on Thursday.

  • Reply inthefastlane October 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I am in the last 100 pages of a long novel, and then your book is the next in my Kindle queue.

    I find, as a school counselor, that I get very frustrated with “the system” that is in place to help kids. I KNOW there are kids in bad situations. And I have made calls to the agencies that are supposed to help. You would not believe the number of times that these reports are screened out and never go any further than my phone call. And believe me, I don’t make those phone calls lightly. I am not go to make calls if I don’t have a basis for concern. And the number of times that my concerns are dismissed and never even looked at any further, makes me very discouraged.

    I won’t stop making those calls, but it breaks my heart how many times I think that kids are continuing in whatever situation they are in because CPS won’t even just send some one to talk to the kids or the family. And then it is back on my desk, to help and support in what little ways that I can, that never quite seem to amount to enough.

    • Reply emily October 23, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      It’s completely awful. And that’s why we need to keep talking about it. But thank you for continuing to make the calls.

  • Reply fiwa October 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Thank you for the reminder. I meant to go get it when you put up the first post and then forgot.

  • Reply Kris October 23, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Will get the book and share the info – thank you. Good to remember the value of being a reliable adult who cares about a child’s well being and conveys that the child matters and deserves to be safe and loved. Even if CPS has been involved, this presence could be all the help a kid is going to get. The child welfare system often is inadequate for many reasons. Having logged a lot of hours in family court, I’ve seen removals that were unreasonable, and I’ve seen parents have access to their kids when I had no doubt the kids had been and would again be seriously harmed. Thanks for continuing to share your story and advocate for kids.

  • Reply Lau October 24, 2012 at 1:03 am

    I just read part of the beginning (the amazon “preview” part), and will read to the end. I am breathless. Emily, you are an amazing mother, and an incredible writer. I will share this with everyone I know, many of whom are teachers of elementary and middle-school aged children. I admire your bravery, and your ability to write so honestly.

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