HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Keziah” is a pseudonym.
Trigger warning for To Break Down a Child series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.
I have half-moons on the sides of my nose. They are actually the third set of bags under my eyes. I didn’t cry all night, or stay up late with a baby. In my mid-thirties, I cannot sleep at night. Once my distractions and duties rest for the day, ghosts play in my dreams and the memories of fears warn me to stay awake. The dark is when bad happens and my parents trained me to fear it.
A lack of light is evil.
Even now, I want to write anything but this. Writing is my life’s work, but this shouldn’t be my story to write. I shake my head, furious that I know this tale, my stomach forcing me hunched over.
I won’t write it – fuck them. Then I remember the other “them,” and write. I sigh. The quiet “them”no one talks about. My being a “them” that no one talks about, that my parents still try to silence.
I remember a tired face, another face of my current age; this face was my face, only on a different person, twenty years ago.
This face stood over a five-year-old me, throwing fists on a starving body, as punishment for adding sugar to cereal or adding pepper to an already perfected meal, thus insulting the cook. I saw this face as I stood shaking every morning as it scowled at the unruliness of my hair, turning my scalp to fire so that it was perfect – a twisted mix of undiagnosed OCD and passion to present perfect children, so the ultimate secret remained so. I turned green every morning and threw up many and that face didn’t care. It showed anger that I was wasting food, wasting hair-fixing time so it could return to bed.
And yes, I was going to school – a public school.
You see, a home dictator doesn’t have to be a homeschool parent, or a religious zealot. A home dictator needs a cause – which can be simply to bury their pain or to feel powerful. My home dictator was mentally ill, and surrounded by enablers: my dad, her siblings, her parents, and once I was old enough, me.
You see, if an outsider catches a glimpse of a home dictator, they recoil – in fear, in disbelief, or with thanks their kids are unaffected.
You see, a child victim’s role in life is to protect the person assigned to protect them who actually fails the most. Any psychological means keeps that victim quiet, even in a public school. The maelstrom of life creates a lack of words for people still learning their words.
If the victim speaks out, that teacher or counselor must act because revealing the fear may happen only once.
You see, an outsider who escapes has little recourse. Often suffering and sometimes still dependent, she gets little help from a state agency – especially once she is no longer a minor. When I contacted CPS for my younger brothers and sisters, the initial phone worker asked little and the investigator saw food in the fridge and left.
American culture (and perhaps others, too) can change this. When I contacted my state’s child services, they wanted to know what they would find. I told them they would find no evidence – only children who believe those workers will take them to a new home, one where they will be raped and beaten, maybe experience the same treatment they do now, only worse, because they will have no parents who love them.
And those children will lie and protect. They will be confused and scared.
You see, there will be no evidence of abuse.
The weltschmerz of these children has inspired action and a weird happiness kept me reading Homeschoolers Anonymous. I fit in, even though I was never homeschooled a day in my life.
This movement that the Internet has enabled, comprised of parents and victims, the growth of psychology and the explanations of science and brain functions the masses can understand and access, this can be the kairos to educate about child abuse.
The identity of “them” is often formed in the name of God, for pride, for the appeasement of elders, for the appearance of good parenting. Homeschooling provides a hidden world, a place of acceptable child abuse.
The same stories happen with “them” in public schools, out in the open, with the same training methods so that children remain silent.