Banks County Opinions...

April 10, 2002


Editorial

The Banks County News
April 10, 2002

Time for spring cleaning
The City of Maysville and the Maysville Beautification Committee will hold a clean-up day Saturday.
With the help of the county and the use of its trucks, volunteers will pick up and cart off large items, such as old appliances and limbs, from residences within the city limits.
Similar spring clean up days are being held by towns and counties across Georgia. It is a perfect time for all of Banks County to take the time and effort to do a little sprucing up around their home. It will make all of the county more attractive.

Column

By: Shar Porier
T
he Banks County News
April 10, 2002

75 pinwheels
75 pinwheels dancing brightly on the courthouse lawn as the spring breeze whirls them into a swirl of colors. They bring back memories of childhood — a kid hanging out the car window on the way back from a fair, pinwheel furiously spinning in the wind.
If only these had such frivolity in their meaning. But, they don’t.
They stand for 75 children in Banks County last year that were victims of child abuse - in all its ugly forms.
75 of our children suffered at the hands of parent(s), family, or “friends.”
What’s even more sobering is that these 75 could represent only a portion of the number of children that live in fear and humiliation.
These are the lucky children; the ones who had someone stand up and say, “No more!”
When I was growing up in the 50’s, parents pretty much could do whatever they wanted with their children. Things like this were never discussed.
A neighbor, a middle-class family, had two daughters. The eldest was treated like a queen. The youngest, the scullery maid.
Kim was a preemie. And as such, she required a bit more attention than her mother cared to give. From the day she came home from the hospital, she was mistreated. She cried a lot. She didn’t walk soon enough. She wasn’t potty-trained quick enough.
All these seemingly innocent behaviors of a child with a tough start in life incensed the mother to the point of far more than just disciplinary spankings — they were down right beatings.
I can remember hearing the cries of the child coming from the house on the hot summer days when the windows would be open. Kim’s screams tore into my heart.
But, I was only eight. What could I do? My appeals to my parents only fell on deaf ears. Non-involvement was their way.
“For God’s sake, don’t say anything, don’t cause trouble.”
One day I had had enough. As they were loading up the boat for a day at the lake, all of a sudden she started screaming at Kim and hitting her. I don’t know why. Maybe Kim’s little five-year-old legs didn’t move fast enough.
She lit into Kim in a rage like I had never seen before. Kim’s dad ignored the whole thing and just kept loading the boat. She was beating Kim about her tiny body.
It was just too much. Without thinking, I ran over to their yard and soundly kicked the mother in the shins and told her to stop. She hauled off and decked me.
I was startled more than afraid. I couldn’t believe she would hit a child that hard.
I ran home and told my grandmother and showed her the fiery red and bluish mark forming across my cheek and jaw.
“Serves you right for butting in where you shouldn’t.”
Those words hurt worse than the shot I had just taken. Her words knocked the breath out of me.
I remember feeling so helpless, so...worthless.
“We should call the police,” I said defiantly, picking up the phone and fighting with all my might to hold back tears that I knew would be a non-stop waterfall if I let go. I couldn’t let myself cry. I had to hold on.
“Mind you own business,” Grams said, and grabbed the phone out of my hand.
I felt like I was drowning. I could not understand how adults would let this go on. They were supposed to look out for us kids, love us, care for us. Did it matter whose kids?
Why did no one want to help this child?
The scene next door had become so violent, there wasn’t a person in that neighborhood who couldn’t have heard her cries. Yet, they did nothing. No one moved to help her. What was wrong with these people?
Her mother was switching her with a branch from the birch tree. She had stripped Kim and was making her sit on the concrete steps in the full sun on a hot summer day. I will never forget that sound as she was forced down on those steps.
“Don’t move from that spot until we get home,” she told Kim.
I stood in the kitchen, watching out the window...my back straightened as my thoughts hatched a plan. Defiance gave me strength and conviction a purpose.
I waited until they pulled away and watched to be sure they weren’t just going around the block.
I needn’t have worried. After years of abuse that child wasn’t going anywhere. She just sat, tears streaming down her face. A child totally lost from affection, from love.
But, not for long.
If adults wouldn’t help, I’d get the neighborhood kids to do something. I grabbed some clothes out of an old trunk in the attic and snatched up a blanket.
I crept through the rose bushes into her yard. Her cries had become just gurgles, she was choking, not just on her tears, but on her fears, her hopelessness.
“Kim,” I whispered.
She saw me. Terror filled her eyes. I wasn’t supposed to be there. Kim could get in more trouble if we were caught.
“Don’t worry, they’re gone,” I told her, “Just put out these on.” I left some Kool-Aid in the shadow of the steps.
I ran to all the kids’ homes and explained the situation. That was one good thing about our neighborhood. We kids stood by each other through thick and thin. All of us had talked about the poor girl, now was our chance to actually do something.
She was dressed when I got back, the clothes were slightly large, but she was protected from the sun burning those wounds. One of the kids brought a small bucket of ice — a rare commodity in those days.
We wrapped the ice in a cloth and gently pressed it to her eye, which had now become the color of a sunset - blue, red, pink, purple. Her whimpers subsided as we tended the switch marks on her legs and back.
I looked up and saw my mom coming toward us. I thought we were in for it. Some kids bolted for their bikes. I just stood there holding the cloth on Kim’s eye, tears welled up in my eyes.
Mom took one look at us sitting there. She sat down on the steps and pulled Kim into her lap. She began rocking her and singing to her. She took the ice from my hand and cradling the sobbing child she lay the cool relief against her swollen eye.
She pulled me close to her and pressed another rag to my cheek. I began to sob.
“Sh, sh, sh,…” she said. “It’s all all right.”
Mom carried her back to our house, much to my Grams dismay. She helped Kim off with her clothes and sat her in a tub of cool water, gently pouring water over the bruises and cuts.
Kim stayed with us that afternoon. We played with her and even taught her a song to play on the piano. For the first time, as far as I knew, Kim was happy.
As the sun began to set, we walked her back over to the steps. They were cool now. Mom reluctantly took the clothes from her and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
As we walked back to our house hand-in-hand, we were silent. I could tell Mom was thinking.
When we hit our yard, they got back. I watched as they drove up and made Kim start helping unpack the car.
Mom was on the phone. I don’t know whom she called.
The next day, our neighbors got a visit from two women and a man who seemed to be “official” in some capacity. They left with Kim’s mom in a black, unmarked car. Kim’s dad, ironically, called Mom and asked if she’d sit with the kids until they got back. He followed the car as it drove away.
When they got back a several hours later, things were different. A lot different, from then on.
Though what happened was never openly discussed, I figured Mom had called the authorities.
But, the details didn’t matter. What did was that there were no more screams coming from the house. I was proud of my Mom for finally standing up to help Kim.
Looking at those 75 pinwheels, I can’t help but think of Kim and what my mom had done. Maybe there are others out there who will find the courage to help a child they know is being abused. All it takes is a phone call.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.

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