In a few days, I’ll be testifying on behalf of 10-year-old Joyful and 9-year-old Watchful. Boy, do I want to do right by them. But what is “doing right”?
Their mom has plead guilty to child abuse and now its time for the judge to hand down the sentence.
I’ve been asked to provide a victim impact statement, that informs the judge about how the abuse has affected the children.
So what should I say? I’ve thought long and hard about what a regular ol’ person like me can contribute. And here’s what I think.
The various professionals have written down in dry medical terms or “bureaucrat-ese” or legal talk what has happened. But I can speak with emotion from the heart. I can speak in plain, every day language that draws a vivid, true picture. As a foster family, we’ve lived together day in and day out and I’ve seen all the different ways the abuse has played out, big and small. I’m the one there when his self hatred gets the best of him and he starts punching himself. I’m the one there when she isolates herself from other young girls and sits alone for hours.
So while the professionals use fancy words like suicidal ideation and depressive tendencies, here’s the kind of thing I’ll say.
A few days ago, Watchful couldn’t sleep, so he and I sat in the living room at 4:30 in the morning and chatted. Some of the things we talked about were quite normal – like how much he likes his new Superman socks. Other topics of conversation were much more heart breaking – like Watchful’s desire to kill himself. His suicidal thoughts come up quite a bit; sometimes when under stress like having to go somewhere new he’ll be very specific about how he will kill himself – like jumping out a window or choking himself. Other times, it’s very casual, like it was on Thursday when we were exploring which career he’d like to pursue when he grows up and he calmly explained that he just can’t stand the idea of having to live for that many years and plans on killing himself “soon,” so really there’s no point in thinking about what job he’d like when he grows up.
Wish me luck. Better yet, wish the children luck!