Child abuse is unfortunately an issue that is severely overlooked. The scary part is, most abuse cases happen under someone who is loved and supposed to be trusted. What’s even worse, when most of these cases go to court, the evidence is often dismissed, forcing the child to remain in the abusive environment. From a numbers perspective, 58,000 children are forced to return or remain under abusive parents or caretakers every year because the justice system fails to protect the child.
Whether it’s Intimate Partner Violence, drug use or molestation, something desperately needs to be done to protect the welfare of the children.
I recently had the honor and pleasure of attending the award ceremony and fundraiser for
the Child Justice Organization recently. It was a first for me I learned a lot and connected with some amazing people. The Child Justice Organization was founded by Eileen King, who’s been an advocate for abuse survivors since 1995. Their mission is to ensure a child’s right to be legally protected from an abusive parent. The organization works with attorneys and law firms to help provide legal services for foster children, especially those who have been exposed to abuse, neglect and violence.
The ceremony I attended honored those who have done heroic work in child justice. Lawyers who had dedicated their time and energy for little to no money were highlighted for their work and for making a difference in the lives of children.
One of the attorneys honored was Delegate C.T. Wilson of Charles County Maryland. He shared his story and background that fuels his drive to fight for child justice today. I must say, it was a tear-jerking moment to hear him talk about the abandonment by his mother and horrific abuse he suffered as a child forced to grow up in the foster system. He has also authored a book, 10,000 Hills: One Boy’s Journey, which details his life’s events from childhood to the present day. He is vehemently fighting “to allow people who were sexually abused as children up until they’re 38-years-old to face their abusers in civil court”. Currently, the abused have up until the age of 25 to have their case tried in court in the state of Maryland. This is a fight that has been going on for almost a decade; child advocates have been fighting to have these types of laws replace current ones. Unfortunately, the fight is constantly being contended by major opponents, one of them being the Catholic Church. Wilson is now an attorney, husband and father who dedicates his time to educate and raise awareness on children who are being ignored by the court system. He details that the fight is not easy, but is assured that he survived his horrific ordeal to be a voice for those who cannot be heard.
Another fascinating feature of this event was the display of The Glass Book Project, set up by Helga Luest, the Executive Director of Witness Justice. This unique project displays the cries, stories and tears of those who have suffered abuse only to be failed by the justice systems. They were accused of lying about their abuse or simply ignored, leaving them damaged with many issues unresolved. The display pieces were born out of collaboration of community organizations, educators, and students at Rutgers University under the guidance of artist Nick Kline. The displays are literal glass sculptures, ranging from book pages, to see-saws, and book shelves. The display has been shared all around the country and has received recognition from the U.S. Congress, New Jersey Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma, and has received support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
I recently had a chance to chat with Helga and she provided loads of insightful, powerful information. Listen to the interview below:
It was amazing to be among a distinct group of people who are fighting such a specified cause. It’s sad that the issue of child abuse committed by loved ones is overlooked. Delegate Wilson’s story is a prime example of how thousands of children grow up in the foster system at the hands of abusers, predators and repeat offenders. Many of these children have no voice, those that do speak up are shunned upon, causing them to cower back into the shame and loneliness of their pain. People such as Delegate Wilson and Helga Luest have chosen the brave path of sharing sensitive information about themselves and demand that law changes be made to protect those who cannot speak up.
Please be sure to check out these organizations and support them if you can.
Find out more about Child Justice here.
Read more on the Glass Door Project here.
Information on Helga Luest and the project she runs can be found here.
I must also say that attending this event has inspired me even more regarding my own story, and the boo I’m currently working on. As time goes, I will be sharing more regarding the roots of the story and the process I’m going through to put this book together. It’s not an easy one, but one that is necessary as awareness needs to be raised. Be sure to read previous posts on Intimate Partner Violence and stay tuned.
My interview with Delegate Wilson