Category Archives: Child Abuse Awareness

Confucianism, Parenting and Abuse

I am not familiar with the term “child abuse”. When I think about my childhood, my parents did spank me, yell at me, criticized my actions, and other behaviors that hurt me. Do these actions count as abuse? Maybe.

Confucius

Confucianism had been the moral standard in China for more than two thousands years. Although contemporary Chinese people no longer emphasize and treat Confucius ethics and philosophy as the only standard, his teaching and ideologies have been rooted deeply in Chinese society. Confucianism highly values the importance of filial piety, and believes obedience is the way to show filial piety to parents. In terms of family hierarchy and roles, parents are in more superior positions than their children. Based on such family construction, parents and children are not very close to each other. On one hand, children love and rely on their parents, and on the other hand, since parents are more superior, children must respect and obey them. Disobedience was traditionally viewed unethical and un-filial.

Filial Piety

I barely remembered why my parents beat me, yelled at me or criticized me, but I just remembered they did. When I talked to my friends about childhood abuse, we shared about the same experience. We remembered the tools that parents used to beat us, but we all forgot the reason why the conflicts started. And usually, the fights between my parent and I ended up with either seeking for help from my grandparents, and the other parent if my father and my mother were not at the same battle line, or I apologizing for whatever I did, though I did not admit in my heart. December 29th, 2007, it was my 17th birthday. I went back to my hometown and planned to celebrate with relatives and friends (I was in Christmas holiday, but my cousin wasn’t). My cousin came back from school during lunchtime, and my grandparents insisted him to take a nap, but my cousin wanted to play computer games with me. My grandparents were angry with him. To resolve the problem, my father slapped my face, blamed me for distracting my cousin’s nap and disobeying my grandparents. I felt humiliated and ran away from home for couple hours. In the end, my mother and aunt pacified me on the phone and asked me to come back to the party to protect everyone’s face, and my father never apologized to me. That was the worst birthday I’ve ever had. I wasn’t in the mood for party at all. Every time I think about this moment, I still felt angry with my father and hurtful. My father owed me an apology, but I cannot ask it back.

When I was little, every time my parents criticized me or beat me, I thought it might be my fault. When I grew up, I realized that my parents were not always right; it was just they were afraid to lose face in front of me. Most of conflicts between my parents and I ended up in silence, and we both chose to not mention them. This is usually how Chinese parenting looks like. Confucianism filial piety rooted in the culture so deeply, so individuals hardly change. I believe my parents were raised in the same way, or even worse. Right now, I do communicate with my parents often and we sometimes talked about my childhood, starting to understand each other. However, from my observation, my parents barely communicated with their parents. I think that’s how society evolves from generation to generation. Individual’s abilities are limited, but through education and acquiring more new information, deeply rooted ideologies can change.

Most of my friends and I are the first generation of one-child since the One Child Policy has been implemented in early 80s. We attracted the full attention from family. As the only child of my family, I know my parents love me and I was born in the right family. However, their behaviors in my childhood were still considered abusive. I shared the story of Look At Us Now, Mother! with my friends, the story ensembles ours. As Sigmund Freud says, “unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” All conflicts must be resolved, otherwise accumulating the unpleasant emotions inside will lead to explosion in the future. I like the way that Gayle Kirschenbaum chooses in the movie to remember and examine the past, and then forgives her mother. However, for me, the situation is different and more complicated. It is the culture. I experienced my parents’ love and criticism at the same time. Therefore, I choose to forget and forgive. Comparing to the love that they gave me, the abuse and harm are negligible. I don’t attempt to change the culture, but one day if I were parent, I would not treat my children in the same way as my parents did.

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Watch What You Say

This morning, as I was looking through my Facebook newsfeed, I stumbled upon a Huffington Post article titled The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up.’  I was more intrigued by the title of the article than anything else, so I clicked it and began reading.  This article was not what I was expecting, and it fits in perfectly with what LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! is trying to shine a light on: parental abuse towards children.

This mother, in short, talks about how she likes to stick to a schedule and be timely.  Her young daughter, however, is not like that at all.  She likes to take her time, and never seems to be in a rush.  Time was never of the essence for this little girl, who was trying to enjoy the simplicity of what we like to call life.

So the beginning of the article is going through how the mother was living her life vs. how the daughter was.  She then brings up the day that she stopped saying “hurry up.”  She was picking her daughters up from school, and all of a sudden, she saw a reflection of herself in her older daughter…and realized that she had been bullying the younger daughter into rushing through life so that she could keep to her schedules.  In the article, this was a powerful moment to read.  After the incident, the mother ultimately realized that this was no way to raise her daughters, and changed her outlook on life.  Readers, I highly encourage that you read the article.

So, what’s the lesson behind all of this?  Watch what you say to your kids and how you say it.  Even though you think your approach is the logical one, you won’t know how your child is reacting to it, unless it’s evident.  Luckily for this mother, she was able to see a reflection of herself in her older daughter and was able to fix the solution.  Kids are impressionable, and rely on their parents to be their role models.  Parents, set good examples for your kids, and treat them the way that you would like to be treated in return.

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How to Deal with Bullies

Bullies are everywhere. Well not exactly everywhere, but they can exist in several places as we have learned from this blog. For example, bullying can exist in the house from your own siblings and in the schoolyard from peers. Bullying even exists at the workplace. No matter where bullying occurs, it must come to an end. But how?

 

When I was younger, in about the second grade, I was bullied by two classmates during lunchtime. I remember not liking it so I told my parents and teachers. The classmates soon stopped bullying me.

 

As you can see, even if bullying does occur, it can come to an end. So what should your child do if a bully confronts him or her?

 

  1. First thing is, if possible, don’t give the bully a chance. You can’t hide all the time, but if you can walk around and avoid the bully, it is best to do so.
  2. Stand tall and be brave. This might be enough to stop a bully.
  3. Work in numbers. The more people and friends you have with you, the less likely the bully will confront you. If someone else is having bully trouble, offer to be with him or her when the bully is around.
  4. Stand up for yourself. Say no loudly then run or walk away.
  5. Don’t bully back by kicking, pushing, or hitting the bully.
  6. Tell an adult. You can tell teachers, principals, parents, and/or lunchroom helpers at school. Sometimes bullies stop when an adult finds out because they’re afraid they’ll get in trouble.

 

Whether bullying happens in the house, at school, or even in the workplace, these are suggestions to stop bullying in its tracks. Bullying is very wrong and must come to an end once it starts.

 

Reference

 

“Dealing with Bullies.” KidsHealth. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2013. <http://kidshealth.org/kid/grow/school_stuff/bullies.html>.

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A Cry for Help

I can’t believe that anyone would keep someone captive for any period of time, let alone years. However, that was the case with Amanda Berry, now 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, who were all abused physically, sexually, and psychologically for a decade in a house with boarded up windows. The three women were finally freed after two neighbors responded to Amanda Berry’s call for help by kicking in the front door. Ariel Castro, who police say held these women captive at first by tying them up in chains and rope in the basement and sexually assaulting them repeatedly, has been charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

According to David A. Wolfe, a senior scientist and psychologist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto, the relationship between abuser and victim can get complicated because the victims develop complicated and mixed emotions toward the abuser in order to survive.

The good news is that it is possible to turn around from the damage with the help of friends and family, specific therapies, and privacy, safety and time to come to terms with the traumatic experience. However, there will be negative effects from the abuse such as depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. Once again, the positive side is that about 80 percent of abuse victims who receive weekly therapy show significant improvement after three to four months.

Terri L. Weaver, a professor of psychology at St. Louis University, said that the presence of other captives in the house may have helped the women cope better.

Amanda Berry’s daughter, now 6, who was born during captivity, has an equal chance of overcoming the challenge of her early life. Dr. Weaver said, “There are all types of children in this world that were conceived in violent and traumatic circumstances who come to an understanding of those circumstances and go on to have very happy lives.”

It is a horrible shame that these three women had to endure prolonged abuse, but it is good news that now they are safe and able to turn their lives around. Good thing Amanda Berry called for help.

Reference

Goode, Erica. “Emotional Recovery Seen Possible for Victims of Prolonged Abuse.” The New York Times. N.p., 09 May 2013. Web. 15 July 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/10/us/emotional-recovery-seen-possible-in-cleveland-case.html?_r=0>.

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Yelling!

yelling2When your children do something wrong, what do you do? You yell at them, right? Then they know they did wrong and won’t do it again. Well some researchers say that yelling can be a form of emotional abuse. Children may even suffer from depression or a decrease in self-esteem when parents frequently raise their voices or mix yelling with criticism, insult, ridicule, or humiliation.

A parent educator from New Hampshire, Bonnie Harris, said that it is not good to yell if blaming is involved, however, parents have every right to vent and let go of emotions.

A study found that emotional abuse is the most significant indicator of mental illness, more so than sexual and physical abuse.

Dr. Murray A. Straus, director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, said that yelling can set a bad example for children and how they handle social situations later on. On the other hand, Dr. Bennett Leventhal, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Chicago, said that children have to understand that parents and people in general are not perfect and sometimes lose it and it’s better that they learn that at home than from someone else.

Dr. Myrna B. Shure, professor of psychology at Drexel University, said that children can become immune to screaming and tune it out and it no longer becomes effective.

In a study of 991 families, 88 percent have reported screaming at their children in the previous year.

There seems to be gray area of whether or not yelling can be labeled as abuse since screaming can take many forms such as ridicule, humiliation, or blaming. However, now it may make you wonder whether or not yelling is effective or healthy.

Reference

Morris, Bonnie R. “Scream at Your Own Risk (and Your Children’s).” The New York Times. N.p., 9 Nov. 2004. Web. 1 July 2013. <www.nytimes.com/2004/11/09/health/09yell.html?_r=1&>.

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All in the Family?

While doing some research for Gayle, she directed me towards looking into sibling bullying, and how it’s shockingly just as damaging as bullying in schools.  Sure, we always had that one sibling that would pick on you as a kid, or that you would pick on.  But we never knew just how much emotional damage we were doing to one another.  After reading numerous articles from The Guardian Express, CBS News, NBC News, and The New York Times, I learned more about the case at hand.  We all, at some point, have fallen into the wrath of a bully, but did we ever think it would be from our own family in the comfort of our own home?

Why do bullies do what they do?  Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve wondered this because I was the victim of numerous bullies.  I’ve been wearing glasses since I was three or four years old, and got my first pair of contacts in fifth grade so that people would stop bullying me.  However, bullying didn’t stop at the playground.  It carried over into my household amongst three siblings.

Bullying is more detrimental inside the family than outside the family, according to the research done by Dr. Corrina Jenkins-Tucker from the University of New Hampshire.  She conducted surveys and interviewed households that had at least two children in the family.  The results, to me, were shocking.  Sibling bullies hurt us more emotionally than the bully on the playground during recess.

So why am I so fascinated with this breakthrough research?  For one, I was a victim of not just bullies, but sibling bullies, also.  I dealt with the bullies on the bus calling me a four-eyed freak with awful hair and tomboy clothes.  I was a kid, why would I worry about what I looked like?  I wanted to be comfortable and do my own thing.  Unfortunately, that came with the price of being bullied and running home from the bus stop crying.  While my mom was telling me how to deal with bullies, I didn’t realize that my own siblings, for saying stupid things, were bullying me.

I’ve always been someone that marches to the beat of my own drum.  Individuality is one thing that sets us all apart from each other.  From personal experience, I think that my siblings and bullies in school were jealous of the fact that I embrace the fact that I am who I am.  I achieved so much athletically, for example, and I was made fun of by my siblings for it.  Why, do you ask? Jealousy.  Bullies are always jealous of their target, so they make fun of you and hurt your feelings to make them feel better. Don’t let it get you down, reader. You keep doing you!

And here I am, back to my original question: why do bullies do what they do?  I kind of answered this already, but in my opinion they want to feel better about himself or herself as an individual.  This essentially means that they put others down.  To everyone out there struggling with bullies, here’s my piece of advice: keep being yourself and stay true to who you are.  You will be let down along the way, but power through.  No one else will ever be like you; you are unique and you should embrace it.  If you can learn to love yourself, you’ve come a long way, congratulations! I promise, every caterpillar blossoms into a butterfly.

how-to-include-bullying-into-your-childs-iep

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Catalysts for Change: The Million March Against Child Abuse

RibbonChildAbuse6Kirschenbaum Productions recently discovered the work of War Against Child Abuse, a strong social media presence who uses Facebook (almost 20k followers) and Twitter (@WarAgainstChildAbuse) to raise child abuse awareness.

A painful topic that too often seems to get ignored is that of childhood abuse. It’s an uncomfortable subject for many, but that’s part of the problem. Without open dialogue, there is no understanding of how to alleviate the problem.

War Against Child Abuse (W.A.C.A.) works to bring individual cases of child abuse, as well as related public policy, into social consciousness. W.A.C.A. enlists followers through their social media outlets to act by offering proactive tools such as votes for a cause, petitions, requests for funding for child abuse prevention, and more.

A recent and very important event is approaching, and W.A.C.A., among many other organizations and individual activists, are gathering to make it a monumental occasion. The month of April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which was first proclaimed in 1983. The blue ribbon is worn in support of child abuse awareness and prevention. On April 22nd, 2013, this year, there will be many blue ribbons worn because it is the day of the Million March Against Child Abuse. On this day, many people across the nation unite for peaceful demonstrations against child abuse and crimes against children in the U.S. The march will take place in Washington, D.C. and many cities across the US; maybe even your city. If you wish to lead or co-lead a city, send your phone number, complete name, e-mail address, and city to MACACoordinator@gmail.com. You will be given full support, step by step instructions, and items you need. You can check out a list of cities already registered for demonstrations at the following page.

The spokespeople for the Million March this year are the band, Linkin Park, nominated for several Grammys and winner of a few Grammys including Best Hard Rock Performance in 2002. They have albums such as Hybrid Theory, Meteora, and their latest Living Things. The lead singer Chester Bennington gives a Public Service Announcement about the Million March and National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month covers the very broad topic of “Child Abuse”. Unfortunately there are many forms of abuse from physical to sexual to psychological. Psychological maltreatment (also known as bullying, or emotional abuse) is often considered more complicated and can go unnoticed, but nevertheless can be just as damaging and painful as physical and sexual abuse.

As a survivor of emotional abuse and bullying, filmmaker Gayle Kirschenbaum tells her personal story in her upcoming film (and also this blog’s associated site and brand), LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! In this documentary, Gayle delves deep into her highly charged relationship with her mother. We follow her journey as her relationship with her mother transforms from hatred to forgiveness and love, Mommie Dearest to Dear Mom, and from abuse to friendship and love.

Looking from the outside in, without first hand knowledge of emotional abuse, one might see it as a parent who is merely teasing, or just expressing their love and concern by being critical and controlling their child. Due to raised awareness around teen bullying, however, there has been increased understanding of how debilitating words can be. This is not to imply that the label of “abuse” is being applied to anyone that gets their feelings hurt easily or is overly sensitive. Emotional abuse includes ignoring (belittling, shaming, ridiculing), isolating, exploiting or corrupting, verbally assaulting, terrorizing, and neglecting the child. Psychological abuse is also frequently coupled with physical and other forms of abuse as well. The result leaves scares, and statistics show us that emotional abuse needs special attention. A 2011 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study found a total of 676, 569 victims of child abuse and neglect across the United States. A total of 118,825 of those victims experienced psychological abuse.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month is here, and the team behind LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! and advocates like W.A.C.A would like all of us to be aware of the child abuse that does occur in the United States. Gayle Kirschenbaum, through her seminars and the upcoming LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! film, seeks to be a resource and forum for child abuse awareness and healthy family development.

Please help prevent child abuse or any form of abuse. War Against Child Abuse is a great way to stay knowledgeable of child abuse. Another great foundation is Children Without A Voice USA, whose founder, Lin Seahorn, is a child abuse survivor. Look out for the Million March Against Child Abuse near your city as April 22nd, 2013, approaches. Remember to wear your blue ribbon!

References

“Million March Against Child Abuse April 2013, Washington DC & in Your State – About | Facebook.” Facebook. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. <https://www.facebook.com/MMACAmarches/info>.

Project Topic: Look At Us Now, Mother! (LAUNM). N.d. Report on child abuse.

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Children forced to fight for internet video.

Well, this is just awful.

“A video was recently uploaded to YouTube depicting two young girls being forced to fight each other in a New York City park. The video, now posted on Gothamist, shows two girls being aggressively encouraged to fight by what sounds like a group of older females, one of whom is presumably holding the camera. The two young girls, clad in puffy winter coats, appear no older than ten years old, and reluctant to fight one another.”

From the NY Observer

I doubt I have anything new to say about this specific event itself. Obviously, what they did to those children was horrible and wrong, and I sincerely hope the adults responsible can be identified and dealt with soon. But what I wanted to talk about most was why they would even upload this video to YouTube in the first place. After all, even the most heartless and cruel person in the world would have to understand that uploading a video of themselves abusing children to the Internet can quite easily have repercussions for them. Even if you only care about yourself and no one else, that’s still a good enough reason not to upload it. It just doesn’t make any sort of rational sense.

There’s been a bit of research done on the online disinhibition effect which might help explain this. Essentially, this is the idea that when they’re online, people feel more comfortable behaving and speaking in a way that would normally be too reprehensible in their regular lives. But give them the veil of anonymity and the presence of an audience, and some people can say and do some truly awful things without fear of repercussions. This may be why these women felt comfortable broadcasting this video to the world.

However, that still doesn’t explain why they felt the need to film and upload it in the first place. What were they trying to gain from doing that? Well, obviously I am not one of those women, so I can’t give a definitive answer on that. But I suspect they may have done it for much the same reason anybody else uploads videos; to have it be seen. I suspect they may have been hoping for the video to go viral, or at least to get them some attention. But of course, the difference between this video and something like double rainbow or Friday is that this is a video of child abuse.

But would they be so wrong in thinking this would work as a viral video? After all, videos of little kids go viral all the time. So do videos of people being hurt – after all, just look at failblog. So sadly enough, I can easily see how someone might come to the twisted conclusion that forcing children to hurt each other would somehow be viral video material. Schadenfreude sells on the Internet, it would seem.

Now, the Internet isn’t to blame for what these women did. They are. But they’re still people, and people don’t exist in a vacuum. So I can’t help but wonder; if they didn’t have a public arena to show off what they did, would they have done it? Perhaps they would have, who knows. Perhaps awful people will always do awful things. But I can’t get the question out of my head, what if? On the other hand, if they hadn’t uploaded it, then perhaps the police never would have found out. I don’t know if these people will ever be identified, but if they are they will undoubtedly face charges.

I’m not sure what role the Internet may have played in the decision to do this to those kids and film it. But I have no doubt that it did. What do you think?

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To Make People Feel Something

Yo-Yo Ma has been quoted as saying, “If you are only worried about not making a mistake, then you will communicate nothing,” He said, “You will have missed the point of making music, which is to make people feel something.”

Music, the moving image, or any artistic expression tells a story and the risks taken during the process of its creation, even the trips along the way, are part of what will make the tale worth telling. Risk taking is often confused with a mistake until it’s recognized as something bold and new. Risks are often what bring artists to their next creative level. The second half of Ma’s quote is about response. Does the artistic expression elicit a feeling? Is that feeling powerful? I think documentary prompts feeling when it reflects people and their behavior honestly. The exploration of human condition, and more importantly our relationships, along with the why and how each of us react to them, form our perceptions of the world, and is what makes us tick.

One of my favorite artists, Joseph Cornell, (shadowbox pictured left) made beautiful shadowboxes and collages, rich in subtext, about his relationship with his mother, with women and his view of the world outside his insulated life. Cornell’s intricate shadowboxes have inspired a range of feelings, from playful delight to claustrophobia.  Filmmaker Barbara Kopple gave her audiences (of all walks of life) a feeling of connectedness with the wives of coal miners and Kopple’s relationship with them came to play in their story in Harlan County, U.S.A (1969). Documentarian Alan Berliner explored the complexities of identity through his need to know his father and learn his ancestry in Nobody’s Business (1996). Through Berliner’s personal story, he pulls viewers in with his humor and his ability to make us think about our own sense of self and where it comes from. A couple weeks ago I saw Herb and Dorothy (2008) by Megumi Sasaki (pictured below) and edited by Bernadine Colish. The story is of  Herb and Dorothy Vogel, who were early collectors of contemporary art. Filmmaker Sasaki was able to convey the Vogel’s true passion for art and the artists, their true connection to the artistic process in a way that endears audiences to them. They are common folk like us, (a librarian and a postal worker who love cats, turtles and fish) who have an academic’s knowledge and creative’s soul when it comes art. Her next film is Herb & Dorothy 50×50.

Good storytellers convey feelings and take you there. They take risks in their method because their vision won’t accept anything less. Cornell made shadowboxes using found objects a fine art. Kopple made the backbone of a coal miner documentary about women’s strength. Berliner repurposed ephemeral and orphan films along with arguments with his father to weave a hysterical and fascinating narrative. Sasaki brought blue collar audiences into the New York art world by showing us that anyone can understand and even own art.

Another quote from Yo-Yo Ma that really resonates is, “The best storytellers always get really into their own stories,” Ma says. “They’re waving their arms, laughing at their own jokes.” I couldn’t agree more and good storytellers are fearless through whatever medium they work in, or approach they take.

I have been at the Kirschenbaum Productions for close to a year now as an Associate Producer and Associate Editor. The first thing that attracted me to LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! (LAUNM) was Gayle’s ability to take risks with this film and her previous short My Nose. Her documentaries are personal stories with relatable themes, but just because they’re personal doesn’t mean they’re looked at through rose-colored glasses. Her narratives are told with rawness and peppered with humor, which makes for a sometimes uncomfortably honest – and sometimes painful, but often pretty funny combination. After all, laughter is often the best way to settle chaos.

LAUNM is a social issue film which looks at (and brings awareness to) the effects of strained upbringings and tumultuous relationships that often exist between family members, and more specifically mothers and daughters. In other words, the themes are layered and deep, but brought with waving arms and laugher because they are told through a terrific storyteller and the many staff members who are all arms of the whole. Each understand the most important point of making art; to make people feel something.

What art or artist has made you feel something lately?

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