A Child Has Died


This article was posted in the Sunday Gainesville Sun 3/4/12.

Special to The Sun
Published: Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.

Another child has been murdered.

It was not my intention to write this, I simply poured coffee and sat down to read the
Saturday, Feb. 25, Sun. On Page 5A, upper right, was an article about a lovely 9-yearold
girl “allegedly” viciously murdered by her blood paternal grandmother and
stepmother.

She was reportedly run to death for the crime of allegedly lying about candy she may
have eaten.

While shocked, I cannot be surprised. I have worked many cases involving the savage
beating, starvation, isolation (being locked in a bare room or closet for years), rape,
torture, and murder, for crimes such as “stealing” their parents’ food from the
refrigerator.

Lest you think I exaggerate when I say torture, I refer to pulling out a child’s toenails
with pliers, breaking toes with a hammer, or forcing a 6-year-old to stand under a
cold shower while pouring ice water on him for 40 minutes, then making him lie
naked under an air-conditioner for the next couple hours.

I do not write this to shock readers. It is past time to wake up to what is happening to
our children.

I say “our” children because I do not believe that parents own their children — they
have been entrusted to them by God and the community. It is an honor to raise
children, not a right. And it is the mentality that children are owned objects that
contributes to the terrible beatings, rapes and exploitation of these children by their
families.

In the article it was noted that Savannah Hardin, of Attalla, Ala., was a top student in
her third-grade class. She was said to be “normal and happy…” that she “played and
laughed with other children at the bus stop.”

It is imperative that society begin to understand that there is no single “abused child
syndrome” — no way to look at a child and know that she or he has been molested,
abused or neglected.

Different children respond to terrible adversity in different ways. Many children,
perhaps like Savannah, become perfectionists. It is not difficult to understand once
you talk to them and get to know them. They believe that, if they can only be perfect
enough, the horror will stop.

It usually never does.

Not until the child perhaps tells a friend, who tells her mother
or father, who is brave enough to report the suspected abuse to the child abuse
hotline.

“Suspected” is the operative word — you don’t have to have proof that something is
happening. If a toddler is wandering in the middle of the street in a diaper that hasn’t
been changed in a day or two, it is reason to suspect that something is amiss and
worthy of a report. Let the child protective services sort out the problem — assuming of course that the state legislators and governor haven’t completely eviscerated their
budget.

And a final note on politicians. I have worked as an expert witness for the State
Attorney’s Office in several circuits around the state, educating the court as to how
children divulge sexual abuse, rape and exploitation. Unfortunately, the politicians
cut the budget of the State Attorney’s Office, making it difficult to impossible to hire
expert witnesses in these cases, which may have resulted in the acquittal of alleged
perpetrators. This will continue, until a politician’s child is hurt, raped or murdered.

Savannah Hardin should never have been run to death — forced, according to
newspaper reports, by stepmother and grandmother to run for three hours,
“prodded … along cruelly” by her blood grandmother until she collapsed from
exhaustion “in an unconscious heap.”

She was by accounts a well-behaved, lovely child, apparently murdered by those who
she should have been able to trust to protect, support and nurture her. That betrayal,
faced by children abused by their families, is one of the worst blows, sometimes the
final blow.

Although it has been written countless times, it is important to reiterate: The greatest
danger to a child, whether physical, sexual or lethal neglect, is from his or her family.
The stranger in the bushes is the least of our children’s worries.

Yes, we need to teach them not to talk to strangers and to shout and scream if a
stranger tries to drag them into a car.

But how do we protect our children from their families? There is no “fight or flight”
— they have nowhere to run and to fight back most often results in hideous
escalations of violence.

It is only when society stops lying to itself and starts protecting these children — our
children — that this, our great shame, will begin to heal. If we continue to turn our
heads, blunt our conscience, deny our shame in the face of numbed spirit, we will
have simply abandoned the children entrusted to us to evil.

Copyright © 2012 Gainesville.com — All rights
reserved. Restricted use only.

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About Thomas N. Dikel, Ph.D.

I am a Developmental Psychopathologist trained in child development, clinical psychology, pediatric neuropsychology, and forensic psychology. My focus, expertise, or specialty is trauma and PTSD, particularly child abuse and combat related trauma. I work with both adults and children, and adults who are dealing with childhood issues. I am available for forensic evaluations, consultation, and expert witness testimony.
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