Features — 29 July 2017 — by Audrey Matura-Shepherd
Right to the Point

It takes a lot to kill a child

The issue of domestic violence has many tentacles because, as I wrote before, there are various forms of domestic violence as defined by our laws. These forms being physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse and financial abuse are likewise comprised of their own variations and how each is practiced. It needs to be clear that there can be a combination of these abuses and more often than not the one form of abuse that accompanies each is the psychological abuse, because abuse no matter the form has an impact on the psychology of the person. The psychology having to do with the mind.

A battered person

A person who has been the victim of any form of domestic violence for all intents and purpose is a battered person. Be it that the battering take a physical form or a non-physical form, whichever it is, the person is battered. Now battered persons act out in different ways and when they do, society becomes judgmental, contributing further or compounding the abuse already experienced in the home.

Let me pause here to first set the foundation of it all. Firstly, the home should be the first place of safety for any person; secondly, those in the home share the responsibility of making the home a secure place; thirdly, in each home there is a head of household and figures of authority who set and enforce the mood or rules of the home; and fourthly, a person’s interaction in their immediate community outside the home will be very much dependent on what one experiences at home.

You may see a person walking around, talking and even participating in society, but that does not mean they are not battered… they may be physically battered or emotionally and psychologically battered. While “battered” is usually used in the physical sense, I am extending it to the emotional/psychological sense. What is amazing about a person who is going through abuse, is that they themselves often fail to recognize that they are abused and have become “comfortable” in the abuse, because it may be what is the norm for them and what they are used to. I go as far as saying that even adults who remain in an abusive relationship, do so because from childhood they have been the victims of some form of abuse and so they may grow in age, but not in their mentality and psychology because they remain stuck to the time of the trauma of abuse. This is because there is a cycle of abuse which needs to be understood which seldom starts at the adult age, but rather started from childhood and was never dealt with, so the person grows up accepting abuse as a natural way of life, and may even become an abuser.

For example, a child who grows up in a home where the father is always hitting the mother, and even the children, and calling them names and dominates them, is likely to grow up and either become an abuser or continue being a person “comfortable” in abuse. Maybe the most obvious of these are females who grow up in a physically abusive home and then during their courtship accept very dominant boyfriends who even become physically abusive to them. They may cohabit or marry such men, and literally stay in said domestically abusive relationship when all else tells them, they should leave. When things are bad she may even seek help from relatives, but when he seeks forgiveness and begs her to stay, she loves the feeling of the honeymoon period, goes back until again the beating takes place. If you analyse this and look into their childhood you should not be shocked to learn that from home these females were the victim of some form of abuse, but because one as a child seldom has anywhere to escape and so must forgive their parents and stay in the home, they have a learned pattern of behaviour that perpetuates a cycle of abuse.

How much beating and abuse?

Unless you have been in an abusive home, you cannot even begin to imagine how much beating a child could take and how much emotional and psychological abuse a child can endure before they are dead or go mad. The human mind and being is a really resilient entity, and some of us are just more resilient than others. In a home the abuser always picks on the weakest. So there may be a total of three, six or even twelve siblings, but the abuser, most likely having been a victim of abuse, or just a sick bastard, can detect which child is the weakest and gravitates to that one and inflicts his/her abuse on that one child more than the others. This, however indirectly, is also abuse on the others, who must witness it and live with seeing that abuse of their siblings. So the person looking on may not be physically abused, but the witnessing or knowing of the abuse inflicted on his or her sibling is a form of emotional and psychological abuse that he/she experiences. Thus it will NEVER be the case that the only abused person is the one receiving the beating, as such acts never occur in a vacuum.

The recent case of Faye Lin Cannon is like a textbook case of how much abuse a child could endure before she/he dies from it. And many never die physically but their death is a mental one that sometimes they wish they were dead rather than alive. Some of my readers will be able to relate but some will just be clueless. When you are a child and the abuse starts, it may be from the moment you can move on your own, but there have been instances where almost from birth the child is subject to abuse when he/she starts to cry and the abusive parent does not know how to cope. The much talked about post mortem report of Faye Lin is an attestation of how much abuse she had already endured before she was killed… apparently murdered at the hands of those responsible to protect her.

You see a child can survive broken bones, burns, gashes, swollen arms, face, and even burst head… and they could survive it for years and not be dead. For example, I have shared with very few that I was a victim of childhood domestic violence. I had a very abusive father, who for any simple little thing would get angry and beat the living hell out of me and my siblings. The irony of it is that even when you are being beaten you want to go to that very same person and get a hug to be consoled despite that being the person who inflicted the pain. That desire to seek consolation is just normal for a child who will be seeking refuge, and that refuge in your developing mind is the person who is the head of your house, your protector, provider and parents(s). My mother just could not protect us because she too was in her own position of being a victim of abuse. I stopped living with my parents at age thirteen and moved to live with an aunt, and that was another form of abuse to cope with and, trust me, sometimes to an abused child death seems a relief not a punishment. I am yet to gather the courage to write all the details regardless of who gets offended by the truth!

When I learnt of the Faye Lin case, I appreciated and understood what she endured and the reason she ended up dead. No court of law, no police, no DPP, no community, except another abused person could ever relate to the extent of what a child endures and can keep on enduring until the time they are old enough to just get out. But trust me, when they do get out that does not mean they will be a “normal” functioning member of society. Some turn to drugs, become abusers, return to abusive relationships, turn to prostitution or even just try to be a workaholic or commit suicide. All those clamouring that they want to help and feel the anger, are only living one percent of what that child endured and they can never imagine how many times she may have wished death upon herself instead of to continue living as she did.

The post mortem report only speaks about the physical proof and can never speak of the emotional and psychological scars Faye Lin died with. Thus I say you will never know how much abuse a child can endure before he/she dies from the abuse… indeed it takes a lot to kill a child.

Faye Lin is dead

There are many Faye Lins walking and “living” in our midst. You only have not paid attention because they did not make the news and they did not get murdered, but they are victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional/psychological abuse and they are not dead yet, or may not even be murdered by their abuser, but they, unless they get help, will never be fully functional. Some have become abusers themselves, some have silently stayed in really bad abusive marriages/relationships; some are of loose sexual behaviour, some are over-zealous religiously; some are alcoholics; some just party their life away, but all of them silently suffer and carry the shame and guilt, and just cannot come to terms with it sufficiently to speak about it. Few however, have gotten help. They may have done so through a counsellor, a friend, and just sheer will power and some are just so resilient they have learned to “cope” and still be technically functional. The topic is taboo and so, with little or no discussion in the public sphere, many will never be able to speak out. And with social media as a forum for bullying and disgrace, 99%, I guess, will never speak out for fear or shame.

They are your friends and neighbours and may even be you, but abuse has a way of making us hide and feel ashamed as if we did something wrong, even when the wrong is done to us. Then the more salient cases such as Faye Lin may surface, and in a knee jerk reaction many will comment, and act out and demand justice, but then that dies off too and still the real issue does not get the attention and solutions it needs, and so the abuses in the homes against children just continue until the next news item.

Just looking at Faye Lin’s case, from the little that has been revealed by the Director of Public Prosecution we know that she was definitely subjected to both sexual and physical abuse, which inadvertently leads to psychological abuse. In an interview on July 13, 2017 following charges of “Cruelty to a child” against David and Anke Doehm, the adoptive parents, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal stated: “We don’t very often see this degree of criminality. The observations section of the post mortem report reads like a horror story and the doctor says, of course with a caveat that we don’t want to try the case here, but that he observed fresh injuries, old injuries and all of them significant injuries. When interviewed under caution, both persons admitted to knowing of injuries being sustained by the victim.” [emphasis mine]

This goes to show that Faye Lin had for some time been subjected to physical abuse because of the old injuries observed, yet there is no known evidence yet that she was ever taken to a doctor to have these treated. Then the fresh evidence is proof that the abuse was ongoing. According to various sources, I understand that one of the injuries was the piercing of her heart by her rib that was broken. So I pause to think what kind of force or weight had to be applied to her chest that would cause her rib to break to the point that that broken rib bone could then pierce her heart. My instincts, my common sense tells me she could not have inflicted this injury on herself. It also tells me that someone had to apply extreme pressure to her rib-cage area to break the rib bone and said bone had to have cracked or snapped forcefully enough to then become a projectile that pierced her heart and thus contribute to her death.

No matter what the charges, no matter what the verdict in court, no matter if the police ever get brave enough to charge the only two persons who had unlimited access to her for the last three weeks of her life when she was left locked up… the overwhelming evidence points to the fact that she did not cause those injuries to herself. The DPP had said, “They [the Doehms] were of the view that she [Faye Lin] was suffering from a certain illness and in all that time they never took her for any kind of medical treatment. In all that time they never took her to a doctor to be diagnosed. Instead they decided to administer valium to her and to perform some Japanese healing technique on her.” This information had me thinking that you can kill a person by an act or an omission when you have a duty to act, but enough acts were done, including administering valium, which is a prescription drug… how the hell they got that and who prescribed it for the child? Or is it an illegal prescription and where did they get it? And if they believed she was ill, why have her locked up for three weeks? How come no one missed her? How come she does not go to school? How come they failed as parents to take her to a doctor? And what “Japanese healing” they administered? Were they qualified practitioners to administer this healing? Even with all the answers it does not change the fact that Faye Lin is dead… and it took a lot to finally kill her!

My thoughts

I have always pondered about the issue of abuse, and have done my best to understand it, appreciate why people in abusive situations cannot help themselves, and understand that when I see people as adults act up, I may really be dealing with an inner child still affected by abuse. I do not take people at face value. If you are reading this and know you have been victim of abuse you will appreciate my next statement. When you have been abused you either choose to blank it out or you re-live it each time, until you get professional help. Let me explain. An abused person finds it easier, in the short-term, to blank it out because to talk about it, admit it happened and deal with it up front, is just too painful and hard to cope with… you got to delve deep down and address it and that is so painful you prefer to just blank it out… mind you, it later always comes back to haunt you. Then there are those who cannot blank it out and so usually act out in really “strange” ways to those who cannot identify an abused person crying out for help. But one thing all abused persons go through, when they have not yet sought help to deal with it, is that each time they see, read or hear a report of a person abused in the manner they were abused, they relive their abuse all over again… yes, through knowing of another’s abuse, you re-live your abuse!

Those too shallow to understand will never know that a sexually abused child relives that abuse each time he/she hears of another sexually abused child, and a physically abused child re-lives that abuse each time he/she hears of another physically abused child… some joke it off, ignore it, try to be numb…. But in the depths of their mind they re-live it. Faye Lin’s case just brought to the surface the pain of so many abused children out there… though some may be adults right now… the child in them has never healed.

God bless them!

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