Mom escapes abusive home to save kids
When an unbearable series of verbal and emotional abuse took root in *Marcia Brown’s marriage and led to her child being diagnosed with psychotic disorders, she knew her love for her children had to trump the uncertainty of an escape route.
“The verbal abuse would continue for days and it was unbearable. It got so bad that he (husband) began neglecting the children’s basic need of food, electricity, just the most basic of things out of spite. I had lost my job, my savings had dried up and the abuse intensified.”
Brown said she became increasingly depressed and unhappy as there was nowhere for her to immediately go and take her children with her.
“I couldn’t even buy sanitary napkin for myself at one point… and he knew these things and made no contribution. My daughter, who was a teen by this time was seeing these things and experiencing life in an unhappy home. She was bottling up the feelings, which later escalated into tantrums. She would kick down doors and break things and simply act out.”
The mother, who thought her daughter was demon-possessed, took her to church but was later referred to a psychiatrist who made the diagnosis.
“Her episodes were triggered by how she saw her father treating me and even how he treated them. I had no idea of the impact this had on her. At one point the verbal abuse turned to physical abuse, so ultimately I had to run away with them for months.”
Compromised social development
Consultant psychologist Dr Orlean Brown-Earle told The Gleaner that she had seen approximately 20 cases of all forms of child abuse annually among children in the parish she works.
With 20 years’ experience as a psychologist, Brown-Earle revealed that it was the compromised social development of the victim that raised an alarm to a caregiver leading to professional intervention to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder.
“…You will hear men and women with the pathetic joke that they send around about how they managed or coped being beaten. Some children are physically abused and they get over it quickly because of their personalities, while others are abused emotionally and it pushes them psychologically underground making them more depressed or anxious.”
In situations similar to Brown’s, where her daughter required psychiatric treatment because she saw her father abusing her mother, Brown-Earle said secondary abuse was just as dangerous as primary abuse.
She said this further drives home the importance of not only seeking intervention for the victim but for the abuser.
“… There are more persons trained to work with the abused than the abuser. The judges will refer them to counselling but there needs to be specialised training for abusers and long-term therapy for them. This is something the Government needs to push,” the psychologist explained.
Though pressed to get protection from a justice system Brown describes as a failure, fortunately for her, she was able to get at least one child away from the environment of abuse, while still in her care.
This is certainly not the reality for many as, according to statistics from the Child Protection & Family Services Agency (CPFSA), a significant number of the more than 4,000 children in state care end up as victims of either primary or secondary abuse or both.
The CPFSA reference chart released in April shows the number of reports of abuse made to the National Children’s Registry. It indicates an increase in emotional abuse cases moving from 1,091 in 2019 to 1,172 in 2020.
Though the cases remain high, there was a total of 2,531 cases of physical abuse reported in 2020, down from the 2019 figure of 3,383. There were also 4,148 cases of child neglect in 2020, down from 5,402 reported in 2019.
For more than 30 years, Yvonne Townsend, a trained social worker and ex-cop, has operated a safe home that rescues abused women and children, among others.
She told The Gleaner that in 2020, she rescued a total of 18 families, the highest number she had ever seen since she opened the home.
“We not only rescue them but we have to help many of the women develop their exit strategy to avoid being killed… sometimes we have to arrange transportation. Some cases are in court, some women take out restraining orders and we have a legal team that advises us and luckily some have found another home, for themselves and their children, where they feel safe…”.
Townsend said it is often through the Poor Relief Department of the municipal corporation that food and other care packages are provided to the women and children who escape the abusive homes.
* Name changed upon request