Dark Past, Bright Future

Every once in a while I take on a writing assignment that really gets under my skin. One of my recent projects for Riley Messenger magazine is haunting me more than most.

The story involves a very strong young woman who survived a terrible case of child neglect as a toddler. Thankfully today she is strong, independent and impressive. But a photo from nearly 17 years ago will not leave my mind – huge, sad eyes framed by an incomprehensibly tiny, weak body.

The dark brown eyes remind me so much of my youngest daughter, except they convey a resigned sadness I could never imagine on my little girl’s face. As I go through my daily parenting routines of playtime and baths, diaper changes and bedtime stories, I keep wondering how different that young woman’s life must have been at this age.

Did anyone sing her songs, tickle her toes and smother her cheeks with kisses?

Did anyone rock her to sleep, read her a book or play peek-a-boo?

Did she ever fall asleep in the arms of a loving parent?

Did she ever feel safe? Wanted? Happy?

Every child deserves someone to tell them, “I love you – always. No matter what.”

A big part of me wants to reach into that photo and embrace the sad-eyed child, reassuring her that she is good. She is safe. She is loved. But the young woman that child has grown into makes it clear – she does not want pity. She wants to feel strong.

So instead, I do what I can. I listen. I buy her lunch. I remind her what a brave and honorable thing she is doing by speaking out to help other children.

Then later, I sit at my computer with tissues in hand and write the magazine article – praying for the words that will turn this tragic story into a teaching tool.

If there is one lesson this young woman and I both want to share, it’s this: Do not be afraid to speak up on behalf of a child who you suspect may be in danger. Don’t wait for proof – it may be too late. Indiana’s Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-800-5556. You can remain anonymous.

(This woman’s full story appears in the Spring 2012 edition of Riley Messenger and was also featured on WTHR TV. http://www.wthr.com/story/17005090/crawfordsville-woman-who-survived-abuse-unlocks-the-past )

Similar Articles



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


From our Sponsors