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A Good Day to Save a Child's Life
“Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. That is nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The child maltreatment death rate in the US is triple Canada’s and 11 times that of Italy. Millions of children are reported as abused and neglected every year.”
--President Michael Petit of ECM
According to the Children’s Defense Fund’s report, 1,825 children were abuse during 2014. Let’s look at it in another way—five children were tortured and murdered each day for the past 365 days in that year. Acts of violence against children involves all incomes, races, ethnicity, and religious groups or cults. Usually, the assailant was someone related or known to the child; a parent, a step-parent, a relative, or a caretaker.
These children have a horror story to tell, and their stories are heart-wrenching, and at times heart-warming for their bravery. But our inability to appreciate a child's life is witnessed through individual testimony and empirical messages. And, no horror stories will ever replace a child trapped in genetic whirlpool of violence that ends with their death; because it is their story that will live on in hearts of those who dare to care. So that one day, they will be saved from a life of pain and misery by those who dare to act.
This is a story of child abuse.
End Child Abuse
Stephen Gardener was only four-year-old when he died after a beating with a broomstick from his father for interrupting a chess game. He wasn't old enough to understand the domestic death sentence that was bestowed upon him. He was someone who wanted nothing more but the affection of a father. Fortunately, his father was now facing charges in the connection with his torture and murder. This is a senseless act of cruelty from a coward.
He felt sorry for that little boy which triggered memories of the death of his own child. The tears rolled down his cheeks. After a moment of great sadness, he turned off the News. He had lost the little girl he loved so much; seven years of stories at bed time; seven years of conform at the time of injury, and seven years of kisses; gone in a day’s notice.
Misplaced feelings and guilty conscious soiled his heart. Death! He wished on him. The uncle he trusted to watch over his baby-girl would spend the rest of his days behind bars. But this would only satisfy the crime, and not the pain.
He stood before the door visualizing Tina on the bed. He opened the door slowly and peeked in. She was wearing panties and his favor T-shirt, lying in the middle of the bed, holding their daughter's favor bear as believed. He stared at her for a moment or two pondering her question; "what about us?" He loved his wife; she reflected many good memories of their daughter; but too many hurtful reminders from well-wishers, and too many silent nights spent looking at his wife and thinking of his beloved.
I need to let go. He felt selfish to think such a thing. She was his little princess taken away before she had a chance to experience real love and prosperity. How could he just throw all those wonderful hopes away?
She felt his eyes upon her even before he entered the room. She pretended to be asleep, but the sniffling and the tears gave her secret away. She loved him, but wondered why the guilt of their daughter’s death was greater than she. She felt selfish to think such a thing. She sat on the edge of the bed and took his hand, placing against her wet cheek. Her mumble words were of forgiveness and despair.
He sat and put his arm around her.
“What are we going to do?" she whispered in his ear. "You haven’t really talked to me since Mia’s death. I loved her too; a lot more than you have ever know. I'm here for you. And I need you here for me. Or our relationship is done."
"We had a big piece of our lives taken away. And you look so much like her. So beautiful. I love you, but this whole thing is confusing. I can't believe she is gone. And I'm still trying to figure out what I did wrong to deserve this.
"You were a great father. You did nothing wrong,” she said resting her head on his shoulder. "but now I need my husband." She looked into eyes and said, "I miss her too, and the pain is too great for me to handle alone, and If you can't see I need you now more than ever too; then I think we should separate for awhile."
“I'm sorry, but I can't give you what own anymore,” he said sadly as his eyes begin to water.
“I love you, but you need to find our reason to live again. Your promise to me has changed because of this. Mine hasn't.”
“I will miss you,” he said.
“And I will miss you,” she said.
He moved into a small twenty-five unit apartment complex; nice mix of colors, calm and soothing. Two beautiful and full trees of orange and red leaves planted on manicured lawn. Nicely groomed brushes lined the patio’s front and its bend. He paused and looked at the building with sad eyes wondering if Tina would want him back after being apart for some time. However, he truly believed their hearts would strengthen with whispers of true love reborn.
“What’s wrong,” his sister asked.
“I just had the strangest feeling,” he said.
Carrying his stuff up to his apartment, he noticed a little girl sitting quietly against the wall with a Barbie doll lying on her lap. He heard whispering but it stopped as he approached. He stopped on cue and smiled; “Hi. I’m Erik and this is Karen my sister." He whispered, "she likes to bake. And a lot. Especially big cookies. You're welcome anytime,” he said.
She didn't flinch.
He looked at his sister with suspicious eyes, and then they continued on their way. He laid his stuff on the carpeted hallway to fish for the keys. Something was odd about her silence. It was fear. Children were supposed to be free, but she's trapped in an inescapable reality trying to find a world of beauty and imagination. He looked at her with empathy.
“Doesn’t look like Mia?” Delores asked.
“She does,” he said closing the door behind her.
“Well, do you want me to cook dinner for you?”
“No, I’m good. Thanks for all your help. But go home and feed your husband”
“I worry about you. Call me if you need anything. You and Tina are soulmates. God will be waiting at the Gate for you. The love you have for her is real and genuine. And she loves you more than herself. Remember, she went back to school to earn the same degree so you could work together. Who does that?”
“Yeah, that was the coolest thing. I think she feels that I blame her for Mia’s death.”
“No, of course not. I love her.”
“Then act like it. Be a man. That's what she wants. I know you're still hurting, but Tina needs you; and, you need her.”
“Go home Delores.”
The furniture rental people had just arrived as Delores was leaving; the last delivery on their list. She volunteered to stay and help, but Erik wouldn't hear of it. Three workers tiredly carried three rooms of used but cared for items. Dining set was common and practical to satisfy any income level. The living room furniture was ideal for a three star hotel; if the curtains matched. And the bedroom set, well, all that was needed was a Gideon Bible.
He texted his wife; “Miss you already. Hurts more without you. This is our test of love.”
She texted back; “ I don't need any damn test. I love you.”
He sat on a used but very clean couch to eat dinner and flipped the channel to the News; another story of child abuse; a child was beating to death and buried in a shallow grave in the backyard. “Who are these people,” he said disgustedly and turned off the TV. At that moment, he heard yelling coming from next door, walked to the door, opened it, and looked out.
Silence filled the hallway.
Something was him drawing near that apartment. He walked it. The door turned black and cold and then panned back to tan and warm. “What tha? I must be under a lot of...never mind,” he whispered. He sensed that sweet little girl was in trouble. “What if I’m right and she needs my help?” he asked while staring at the door. “This is silly. What if it’s just a harmless domestic dispute? I need proof. You can't just accuse someone,” he said and went back his apartment, slowly closing the door peaking through the slit.
Two days later, he was tried from working the night-shift. Fridays were the busiest day of the week for traumas; the injured filled each room and bed. He saw her sitting at the top of the steps. He noticed bruises on her legs. “what is that? Bruises? Who is abusing her? Children at school. Her parents. No, stop it Erik. I need to stop being so suspicious. She a kid for God's sake. Some kids bruise easily. Shut-up, you don't believe that,” he whispered. “Hi. I just moved in. Do you remember me. I was with my sister.”
She sat silently with her head between her legs.
“I guess I will leave you alone, but if you ever want to talk. I will listen to anything you have to say. Our secret. Okay? Well, you know where I live."
“You're my neighbor, Erik,” she said lowly. "And you sister Delores likes to bake."
She’s alive,” he said in his best Dr. Frankenstein voice.
She stared at him with wondering eyes for a moment or two and then gave a half smile. She tasted his soul; the love flowed out from his heart. She hadn’t felt that kind of vibration in quite a while since the death of her mother.
“You remembered me that make us friends now. And you are?,” he asked with his hand out.
“Nichole." She put her little hand against his palm and a big smile appeared.
“That’s a very pretty name. I had a daughter who looked just like you too. This is so weird.” He sat next to her and pulled out his iphone to show some pictures to her. "Its been awhile since I have shown someone these pictures." He flipped through the images of her. “See. She was everything I want for a daughter. She was my reason to love. She was so pretty and smart.”
"Am I pretty and smart?" she asked sadly.
"Of course. I would want a daughter who looks like you."
"Really? “Did you love her?” she asked. “Because not all fathers love their daughters," she mumbled. She felt hopelessly alone.
"yes, but I didn't get the end," he said.
She a tear rolled down her cheek.
"Oh! Do you want to talk about it?" he asked feeling displaced and glanced at her apartment, knowing the monster hiding under her bed was real and pretending to be a guardian.
“No. I think it better that I don't," she said and changed direction. "How’d come your daughter is not with you? Is she with her mother?”
“No. She died about six months ago. I left her with someone I could trust and something bad happened. But I know she’s okay,” he said mournfully.
“Is God real?”
“Yes. God watches over all children.”
“Then He must be angry with me.”
“Nikki! Get your butt in here!” her father yelled.
“See,” she said and stood, gave a twisted smile, and ran quickly away.
He followed close behind keeping an eye on her and the man at the door. “I’m your neighbor, Erik,” he said. “You have such a beautiful little girl. Very smart too. But I see that she has bruises on her legs and arm,” he mentioned to get a response.
"you know kids. They're always falling and not listening," her father said grabbing by the arm. He pulled her into the apartment.
"They're hand marks," Erik said bluntly.
“Yeah. So what,” he retorted and slammed the door.
Her father flipped out, got angry and started screaming at her; “What I tell you about talking to strangers about me!? You’re in for an ass-whooping.”
“Didn’t say anything!”
“Don’t take that tone with me, you're useless. I wish you would have died instead of your mother!” he screamed; threw her against a wall; she bounced to the floor, and he kicked her in the stomach. Then he snatched by the arm and dragged her to bathroom. “Take you bath and then go to bed!” he yelled while turning off the water.
She just stood there crying.
“What are you waiting for?”
She mumbled something.
“What!” he screamed angrily.
“It’s morning. I just got up,” she said lowly.
“What did I tell you about talking back to me? You little monster.” He forcibly removed her clothes, pushed her into a hot bath, and then held her head under water. At last minute, he lifted her up by the hair, and shoved a full bar of soap in her mouth.
Erik sat on the couch listening to the shouting. “God put me here for her. I know it,” he said and started pacing, thinking he needs to call the Child Protection Agency. “Wait. Too much bureaucracy and I have only been here a few of days. I need more proof. But just doing nothing is a crime. If she’s in danger, I can call the police.”
Momentary silence, he sat back down and tried to focus on the TV but couldn’t. So, he channeled surfed until a channel portrayed a Saturday morning cartoon; one of Mia’s favorite put a smile on his face. Memories of the time they used to sit together laughing. Those days were gone now but not forgotten. Tears fell as those memories stung his eyes. A thump from next door broke his concentration. He stood quickly and listened intently.
The beatings were always something petty that triggered his violent outbursts. He started yelling and swearing telling her that she was useless. Nikki ran naked to her room trying to escape him, but he followed and overpowered her. He dragged her out of the room into the hall. She tried to defend herself by putting an arm up to protect herself from the blows. She accidentally made contact and the whole ordeal escalate into full blown beating.
Erik was fed-up and went to do something about it, even if it meant beating her father into submission. He wouldn’t let another child die from abuse, not on his watch, and would happily go to jail to protect her.
He stood at her door, but all was silent. He knocked three times. “I called the police!” he screamed and heard a faint shuffling noise. He kicked opened the door, saw Nikki’s father just standing there holding her arms, about to drag her away.
She lay silent and still.
He’s trying to hide the body, Erik thought and quickly approached, grabbed him by the throat, and slammed him against the wall. “What did you do?! She’s your daughter! You don’t hurt children!” he yelled in his face and released him.
“It was an accident. I didn’t mean to—.”
“Bull! You've been abusing her. Haven't you? Call 911 or God help me!” he yelled. He felt for a pulse, checked her breathing, and began CPR.
The county fire department arrived; one rig followed by the ambulance, and the police. Sirens came to halt but lights still flashed. The paramedic and an EMT-1A arrived looking for the apartment. They strode down the hallway with a gurney, monitor-defibrillator, and medical pack; stopping at the open door and check the number, peeked in and saw Erik doing CPR. They pushed the gurney quickly through the narrow hallway. The paramedic took report for Erik, connected her to the monitor, started an IV, and then took over CPR. They loaded her quickly onto the ambulance and continued CPR on the way to the hospital.
The police loaded the father in the back of the squad car. Two officers took witness account of the incident. Erik was the key witness and adamantly explained his version of the situation. He used colorful metaphors to describe what needs to be done the father; using words like boiled alive, hung, shot, and then trampled by a herd of angry elephants.
The police officers agreed.
“What hospital did they take her?” Erik asked.
“UMC” the officer said getting in the car.
He called his wife and then went straight to the Trauma Center. The ambulance gangway was busy with a few EMTs entering the Hospital. A couple of paramedics, a flight surgeon, and a flight nurse was exiting the trauma center.
“Hi Erik,” the flight nurse said. “Are you working today?”
“No. I’m here for the little girl about six, they just brought her in a few minutes ago,” he said. “The abused case. Her name is Nichole.”
“Yes. she went straight to ICU," she said as he turned to walk away. "We should boil that jerk in hot oil and then…! Hey, I heard you helped her!” she yelled through the open door.
He turned around quickly, smiled, and rushed straight to the floor. He saw his wife talking to a doctor and a police officer dressed in a suit. She felt his eyes upon her, gave glance, and waved. He waved back. She smile and held up a finger waiting gave report to the detective; murder or attempted murder. He waited for her, staring at her—oh, how he missed her. She was happy to see him too and walked quickly to him. They met half-way and hugged.
“How is Nichole doing?”
“She stable for now, but she took a bad beating. Follow me.” She led him to an empty room. “You didn’t tell everything. The police mentioned your name. He said you intervened and did CPR, which probably saved her life. You’re a hero baby.”
“She’s the true hero because she had to endure a life of torture. Only God knows for how long. I was just trying to save her.”
“You did good baby. But doesn’t she look like Mia? So weird. And how we all came together to meet at this very moment.”
“This is fate. Can I stay the night with her?”
“You know the rules, only family. But yes you can. Who would ever deny the man who save her life? Follow me. And I know you're thinking what I’m thinking?”
She opened her eyes. That crooked little smile became even. She looked so delicate and innocent.
He sat on the edge of the bed and held her tiny hand. “How would you like to come live with me and my wife?" he asked and then looked at Tina. "First, we have to get permission from the court to adopt you.”
Her bruised eyes got big, but her bruised smile was even bigger. She nodded excited, but moaned after the pain set in, and then smiled again.
Children accepted what is going on in home as normal. But no child should have to live in fear or on the edge insanity in their own home – that's the place they should feel the safest with loving parents to watch over them. Most children probably don't realize there's help out there for them. Even if they see ads pertaining to child abuse intervention; they may not realize it's for them or connect with the message. They may even see the abuse as normal (of course there’s the fear factor) and don't see a connection with an organization that would hear their voice, or they just don’t think someone care enough about their welfare (brainwashed). Children of abuse find it difficult to trust people over a period when all hope is diminished, but it takes only one person to instill faith; a neighbor, a teacher, or anyone with the determination to end the senseless beatings and slaughter. Make a difference in a child’s life today. And sometimes great will happen for you. This is a story with a happy ending, which all kids should experience. The alternative is a story with a fatal end.
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