A Memoir, The Darkness of Humanity

Most people go about their everyday lives, with a sense of belonging and comfort. Most people are unaware of the deep tragedies that shake the very foundation of life, as we know it. Violence against children is something that most people are horrified over when they know about it. Nevertheless, most people still do not want to know about it, and remain ignorant about how often it happens, and who is affected. Even in a socially and technologically advanced state like California, there are cases of severe abuse that affect more than 1 out of every 100 children. The rate of known, reported cases of severe abuse is 11.7 per 10001. This is a staggering number, because this data only includes children between the ages of 6-10. Imagine what the number is when we include ALL children. This is only the reported abuse; many times the abuse is unreported and no less severe.

This means that a handful of children at every elementary school are being abused at home. Among the kids walking with their parents at the mall, maybe three of them will be beaten and abused this month, many more than once. Consider this, at Disneyland on any given day as many as thirty visiting children will be victims of abuse. They are different kids each day, day-after-day, year-after-year. Which children are being abused in your neighborhood? Which children are being abused in your family?

I knew who it was in my neighborhood. I knew who it was in my family. I was a statistic. I was abused. I was unwanted. I was alone.

At the age of eight, I realized that things were different for me. I lived on a different plane of existence than my friends, and even my more pliable sisters. There was something in me that made me different. This something manifested itself very early as a deep sense of justice and equality. At this very early age, I began to recognize injustice all around me. I knew that far too often in this world, the strong exploited the weak. I knew that life was easier for some people than for others. I also knew that this was wrong, and I disliked it. When I was only eight years old, I knew what injustice was, and I knew it was wrong. It made me angry. I acted on my anger. When I was eight years old, I was the avenger of injustice.

At home, where my parents could be mean, angry, and spiteful with us kids, I put myself in the forefront of punishments. Many times, I assumed all blame for messes, accidents, and the annoying little inconveniences that come from three girls playing. When my parents became angry, I stepped in front. I did this consciously to save my sisters from the anger. At some point in my childhood, I had decided that my sisters were weaker than I and that they were unable to cope with the horrifying destruction of our innocence. I took the blame. I took the blows. Being the avenger came with its own set of problems, problems that my emotional 8-year-old self could not process. I could not get the pain on the inside of me out, and it was growing larger and stronger every day.

Like most things in life, there is routine in child abuse. The truth is, any activity, right or wrong, good or bad, when it is repeated over time, becomes a routine. Abuse for me became more than just a routine it became a lifestyle. Whether right or wrong, I knew what to expect most days. My life as a child, and the abuse that was associated with it, became normal. It was all I knew. Within this normalcy of child abuse, I went to school. I made friends. I watched television. I participated in the world around me.

I was a great student. I was tested and placed within the gifted program at my elementary school. My teachers thought of me as intelligent and precocious. Though I was not aware of it at the time, I could not have been, they must have liked me quite a bit. I loved school; it became my haven against a home life I had to endure. I lived solely to go to school. However, like all good things, school ends each day, and I was forced to go home. Even worse, school was not in session all year. Summers were not good for me. I hated not having the daily escape and sanctuary that school offered me. Summers were just something I had to live through so that I could go to school again. The summer that I was eight years old was a big one for me. I had no way to predict it at the time, but that summer would become a severe turning point in my life.

My dad had been a soldier most of my life. He had originally joined the Marines as a young man right out of high school, and spent two tours of duty in Vietnam. Later, after he was married with children, he joined the Army. Steady work seemed elusive to him, so the Army was a good way for him to help support his family. My mother also worked. My dad wanted to go back to school. Right after I turned eight years old, he was discharged from the Army. He continued to have difficulty finding and keeping employment.

That summer my mother became the sole breadwinner for the family. My dad worked when he could.

Suicide attempts are far more common among children than most people think. It is uncomfortable to consider the notion of suicide in general. It is far more uncomfortable to consider suicide among children as being a problem needing attention. The fact remains; that suicide is the third leading cause of death among children ages ten to fourteen. Experts agree that there are at least 10 suicide attempts in this country for each successful suicide. Boys commit suicide more often than girls. However, girls attempt suicide far more often than boys.

Maybe it was the stress of the changes in our lives that summer that made my parents become just a little more mean. Maybe it was my increasing sense of justice and equality that made me talk back more often, and tell my parents that I knew what they were doing was wrong. In any case, my beatings started to come a little more often, and they became a little more intense each time.

The first time I attempted suicide, it was a naive attempt to escape; to escape the worthless feelings. I wanted to escape the feelings of pain that I could not run away from, no matter how hard I tried.

I just could not stand my life any longer. One of the worst parts of being abused as a child is the sense that you were singled out. Child abuse reports have shown repeatedly that very often the victim is singled out for this treatment for no apparent reason. I know this now, but I did not know then. For me it was terrible. I knew that I was treated different than my sisters were. I knew that I was more likely to speak my mind than my sisters were. I knew that I was more likely to talk back to my parents. I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought I was broken, and that my parents were trying to fix me. I also knew that they were breaking me more. I knew that what they were doing was wrong. I knew that it was not happening to other children. I knew that other kids were treated better than me.

I tried and tried to tell my parents to stop. I told them that they should not treat me the way they do. I told my dad he should not drink so much. I told him he should not hit me. I knew that my mom should not tell him to hit me. They did not listen to me. They were remorseful at times, and seemed to care for a few moments, but then they would get angry again. I did not know what else to do. I did not want to be hurt by them any more, but I did not think they would ever stop. When I was eight years old, I tried to end my life. I thought it was the best way to stop being hurt. I only wanted to stop the internal pain in the only way I knew. I had tried other routes, and the other adults in my life failed to protect me. For that reason, I tried to protect myself. At 8 years old, I was desperate and desolate. I stood there, and knew that escape was the only way for me. That day, I crumbled inside.

My parents decided, after this, that I was more responsibility than they could really handle. They turned me over to an institution in an attempt to “help” me. They did not know what help was. They lied and schemed to have me diagnosed, as they wanted, with a disorder I did not have. Not once did they consider that they were the source of my “problems.” Never once did they assume any responsibility for what they had done. Self-denial became their mantra for many years; even to this day, they do not acknowledge the destructive path they had created with belts, hangers, sticks, and even their hands.

That summer when I was eight years old, I left my parents house. I was the middle child. I never lived with them again for more than a few months at a time. As a child I never lived anywhere again for more than a year. Sadly, my time as a victim did not end when I left my parents house. My sisters stayed with my parents, and grew up in an intact family, save for that one sister whom no one really talked much about. I became the forgotten daughter. I happened to become the child behind the curtain.

As an adult, of course, I see and understand things differently than I did back then. Though my life experiences shaped me into the person I am today, and I really like the person I am today, I can’t help wonder what I might have become had I been afforded the stability and opportunity that was granted other children. I wonder how much potential might have been lost. I wonder if my wings were clipped in ways I do not yet understand. In addition, I worry for other children. Statistics have not changed much. There are children out there whose potential is being damaged. My heart hurts for them every moment of every day. I know how they feel. I know they are crumbling inside.

Written by Emmy Taylor

A Memoir, The Darkness of Humanity


Rancho Cordova, United States

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