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Redemption and Forgiveness for an Abuser
Statistical Information on Nanny Abuse Toward Children
Child abuse often has life-long traumatic consequences which carry on to adulthood. A childhood victim of abuse learns survival skills that, while essential to manipulate a difficult childhood, can have devastating effects as they reach adulthood without the skills to defend themselves and eradicate the docile vulnerability which enabled them to survive horrific caretakers. According to safehorizon.org, over 25% of abused children are under the age of three and 45% of abused children are under the age of five.
The disturbing allegations not addressed in these statistics is that abuse is not only initiated by the parents. The vulnerability of children can incite neglect and abuse by any adult close or not to the family, including nannies and day care workers. There have been quite a few stories in the press about nannies charged with killing the children in their charge. These deaths must be devastating to the parents who entrusted their children to whom they assumed were qualified caretakers. After all, the nannies assumed the role of caretakers willingly and were paid for their efforts. They were not forced into indentured servitude and often were able to avail themselves of employment agencies if any disagreements arose in the home. For such nannies who harm those children, it is difficult, nay impossible, to find a modicum of forgiveness for their actions when they had other options when caretaking became too difficult or when there was no legal rational reason behind their actions. It is understood when forgiveness for such caretakers is hard coming.
Caretaker Abuse and Redemption
In modern times, most parents take care to research reputable employment agencies to find the most competent and loving nannies for their children. It is incumbent to find trustworthy individuals as the nannies often live with the family and are expected to bond with and care for the children. In light of caretaker abuse brought to the forefront, organizations such as APNA (The Association of Premier Nanny Agencies, founded 19 years ago) have been created to better screen potential nannies. See: http://theapna.org/membership/members-only/apna-screening-procedures-for-nannies/ Governmental regulations at the state level have also addressed hiring regulations, including criminal background checks, as well as attempting to enforce an equitable payment agreement. Even day care centers are much more highly regulated than they were 30 years ago.
However, it has taken this nation decades to enact regulations and organizations to ensure as best they can, the efficient and loving care of our children. With all these safeguards in place and with all the options a nanny has for employment and decent compensation, at this point, there can and should be no forgiveness or transcendence for the neglect of children under their care.
However, there are situations, rare as they are, that transcendence, understanding and some forgiveness should be granted to the caretaker abuser. Hark back with me, to a much more distant time of 1964, when I was an infant and there were no regulations in place for caretakers, much less disciplinary standards. My mother immigrated to New Orleans from Honduras a few years before I was born and had family in Honduras. She was a very hard worker who barely could handle raising me, caring for a home and a husband who refused to work. She thought it would be a good idea to bring an impoverished 16 year old Honduran teenager, named Santos, to the United States who did not speak English and had no familiarity with our culture. Honduras, back then, was a harsh environment. It is likely that she had two choices: starve or live in a cramped apartment, caring for a mewling infant, cooking and cleaning home. At a time when she should have been in school with the future as her oyster, she was literally a slave to our household without any input from her part.
My parents separated when I was three years old and Santos continued to care for me: most bitterly and resentfully. She continuously mocked a slight speech impediment I had, mocked my lack of knowing Spanish and I do not recall her ever once showing me any affection. She was a cruel nanny. She would shove food into my mouth just so she could see the pleasure of my vomiting. Her daily favorite activity was to have me undress completely and spank me with a belt. As I recall, the spankings were not painful but humiliating due to my not wearing clothes. There may have been other incidents of abuse which I do not recall as I would sleep in the bathtub if my mom came home late at night. I did tell my mother about the spankings but, seeing no bruises on me, she did not change caretakers as Santos worked for free. My mother had no choice. My father was not paying support; she could not afford daycare and there was no family nearby to care for me. Therefore, the day Santos threw me down a flight of stairs in a fit of pique, I kept that to myself, knowing there was nothing to be done but try to be more docile and compliant. All the photos I have of my toddlerhood are those of incredible sadness and I still feel sympathy for myself as a child.
As I mentioned, Santos did not have an easy life being forced to care for a family and household at the tender age of 16 in order to avoid starvation in a cold, harsh country which has no social safety nets such as the U.S. She was literally a slave to our household. There was no escape for her. My mother was a benevolent dictator but Santos had no independence, no friends, not even a modicum of education. As if matters were not bad enough, Santos suffered from a debilitating illness which drastically affected her personality. She suffered from excrutiating migraines because spinal fluid was not reaching her brain. Migraines would be putting her pain too mildly. She would wake up some mornings in such pain that she would continuously bang her head against the wall, screaming at the top of her lungs. My mother had no money for an operation but Charity Hospital in New Orleans agreed to operate on her and it was a success! The change was immediate. No, Santos did not become affectionate and cuddly but the nastiness and the physical abuse ceased. Santos became a much better caretaker until I started school the following year.
Santos overcame her suffering with aplomb. She married a high school math teacher with whom she had a boy who she loved dearly. All the signs of abuse and neglect were gone with the love of a man and her new found health. My mother and I continued to visit her throughout the years. She worked at a local pharmacy during my high school years and I visited her once a week to shoot the breeze, never mentioning the abuse.
This is quite an anecdotal story but it ties in well with the concept of forgiveness. Well meaning people expect those who have been abused to unequivocally forgive the abuser despite the lack of an apology. Oftentimes, the abuser's behavior was caused through his own poor choices whether that be substance abuse, misdirected anger, poor impulse control or plain old psychopathy. Furthermore, these well meaning people expect the abused to continue to accept the mistreatment for the sake of the family unit. I vehemently disagree. If the abuse is caused due to the abuser's poor choices, if an apology is not forthcoming and the abuse continues then forgiveness and reconciliation would be foolish to attempt.
However, there are times when forgiveness is the best moral action toward an abuser when the situation he or she encountered herself in was not a rational one and she was devoid of choices in life and subject to the indentured whims of a family. How can I hold any bitterness toward a 16 year old who was literally forced to be a slave to my family for many years? When I was 16, I was enjoying parties with my friends, planning for college, involved in school activities, etc. I had lots of friends, went to the movies, read books, etc. Santos was a slave and there is no softening that. She never had a chance at an education. She did not know how to read; she had no friends. No one ever bothered to take her to a movie or to a restaurant. She was a child herself and unloved. As an adult, I understand that her mockery and her humiliating spanking techniques was anger at whom she could project to no one but me. At 16 and very ill, she could not analyze her actions or her reasons for her anger.
Such a situation that I endured in the 1960s would not be possible now what with all the immigration and day care laws and this is a good thing. I should not have been raised by a slave who spent her days with a debilitating illness. I do not blame my mother as, she too, was a product of her times. She desperately needed a free caretaker and this was her ill advised solution to it. But, as for Santos, she is an example of an individual who deserves all of my forgiveness and love. It is through my forgiveness and my transcendence that I can give her the redemption she deserves in order to continue to live the good life she so richly deserves without any guilt in her soul.