Thursday 2 June 2016

Thought Picnic: The thoughts of a child rescued from a gorilla

The talk is much
Much commentary has been made about the episode where a toddler ended up in the gorilla enclosure of a Cincinnati zoo.
When I first commented on the matter, I put the blame squarely on the parents and in some ways I have not been too persuaded to excuse the matter. As far as I was concerned, a child in the care of an adult in a public place, that adult being the mother and by some happenstance, the child became a rag doll in the hands of a beast dragged twice through the gorilla’s play pool.
After what transpired, there is no doubt that the gorilla had to be shot for the protection of the child and that should end the matter.
Parents are generally good
However, the wringing of the hands of some parents who suddenly feel hard done by, by reason of the view that certain parents can be careless, negligent or even worse at standing up to their core responsibility of being parents will not wash with me.
Now, parents can be generally loving, genuinely concerned, rarely negligent, sometimes understanding, committedly responsible and suffocatingly protective, they deserve credit and gratitude for their parenting.
From the eye-line of the child
Yet, let us view things from the perspective of a child for one moment, the child is safe, but what are the consequences of that event on the long-term health and wellbeing of the child.
I was barely over 5 years old when an altercation between my parents led my father to leave the house and get into his car to drive away, my mother ran out as my uncle attempted to hold her back. There before me, the car tyre rode over my mother’s shin and to this day some 45 years after, that event still plays back like a film in my mind.
The abuse of trust
At 7, someone my parents were guardians for, took me into the toilet and sexually assaulted me, that was the day I lost my innocence. Though nothing happened between us after that, we had other man-servants who until I was 10 years old took sexual favours off me as if by entitlement. These were people to whom my parents had entrusted our care and they abused that trust.
When I left home for the first time to attend secondary school entrance exams, an older distant cousin took advantage of me, the matter vivid as can be. Meanwhile, having been away from home, the man-servant moved on to someone else. Nothing was revealed to my parents until I returned and I was informed by the abused that something had been done. My parents were informed, yet, no other questions were asked of others whether any one of their wards had been tampered with.
Long term effects
No, I do not think my parents were negligent, but the singular episodes that might have left them distraught cannot compensate for the lasting damage done to the child after abuse and without therapy. The scars remain even if the wounds have healed.
So, before parents genuflect with self-pity and defensiveness, they are not the only ones affected, the children, many of whom clam up and withdraw into themselves as a self-preservative measure, are just as affected and quite deeply too.
Many children never gain the voice to say what they have experienced or what they are going through, from abuse, through harm to depression and worse. Sometimes, there is no atmosphere that engenders the necessary communication the child needs to have. Parents take out their exasperation and frustration in an aggressive and accusative way that the problem is compounded and the child then gets labelled the problem.
This is the plight of many children and most will never get the help they need, the few of us who come into adulthood fortunate enough to have survived our many ordeals are yet to tell our stories to anyone will and able to listen.
What is safe?
There is much to write about the voice of children unheard, their fears unseen, their lives invisibly terrorised and their pleas ignored, much of which, I am afraid, parents have to answer for, despite that fact that they are trying their best. For a fact, parenting does not come with a manual, but it carries great lifelong responsibility. How a child turns out is a product of the presence or absence of that relationship.
And so I ended with the thought, whilst the child is safe now, you wonder if the child is really safe or what happened at the zoo was indicative of a deeper problem that an unfortunate accident.
The police are on the case: Police investigate parents of boy rescued from gorilla. [Fox News]

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