Julie Seedorf: How has reporting abuse changed over years?

Published 8:30 pm Sunday, January 28, 2018

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

In my opinion I had an idyllic childhood. It had its ups and downs, but considering what is in the news today, my childhood was the Ozzie and Harriet type of sitcom life. Yes, there was yelling — I had a Polish grandmother and she didn’t seem to know any other way to communicate except to yell. I now suspect it was her frustration that she couldn’t understand English so when others outside of her family were talking, she didn’t know what we were saying. But I never felt it was abusive or got that feel from my mom or my uncles. My friends in my youth, as far as I know, came from Ozzie and Harriet homes too.

The news today is filled with domestic abuse and child abuse. The recent family in California who were kept locked and chained in their homes shocks all of us. It is hard to comprehend why the neighbors didn’t know or didn’t step in, yet this is not exclusive to the years we live in today. We have the impression domestic abuse is so widespread and more prevalent today because we are aware of cases outside of our local area. But it has been going on for decades, swept under the rug because of shame and the idea victims would not be believed.

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This subject has been on my mind for many months, and it started with my author friend, CeeCee James. I got to know her from the uplifting fun books she writes and the stories she tells along with us both being authors. She was the first one to comfort me when I was down one day, and she let on in her conversation that her life had not always been easy. She was an abused child.

The full force of those words did not hit me until she told me that she wrote a book about it as part of her healing and to help others. She sent me the e-book. The book is titled “Ghost No More.” I only made it through half of the book before I had to put it down and take a break from what my friend had endured from the time she was young until the time she escaped when she was in her late teens. I think this is the first time I realized someone I knew had lived a horrific childhood.

My brain turned to these questions: Were there more of my friends who had suffered in silence when I was growing up? And what constitutes abuse?

I could not believe anyone could suffer what she did and turn into the wonderful woman she is now. I could not believe anyone, any family — because it was more than one person in her life — could abuse a child this way. I could not believe no one stepped in to save her. And I could not believe her strong faith in spite of this.

I finished the book and talked to CeeCee. I decided then and there I needed to give a voice to those who have endured and overcome. I needed to know more about what was happening in the households of the ’80s as in CeeCee’s case and even in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s when I grew up. I needed to know what was hidden behind the smiles of those I now know did not have the fairytale life in my community.

After the story of the Turpin family came out in the news, we all wondered why no one looked closer at this family. Over the next couple of weeks my column will take a somber note as I share an interview I did with CeeCee and others from the days when life seemed safer and simpler — a time when maybe we did look the other way as neighbors did for the Turpins.

Law enforcement and laws were different in those days. Reporting abuse to the authorities in the “olden days” women and children found their claims dismissed and trivialized. How has that changed today and how has the media played a part in awareness, making us think the many cases in the spotlight now are a sign of society today?

I am not an expert. I am a blind bystander opening my eyes to a new awareness.  I have talked to some who have insight into this problem and have help that is available for those who need it and want it. This will not be an expose. I will have no answers. I will learn along with you about the silence of the past and what we can do today.

I finished CeeCee’s book. I cried through many pages. And then I felt hope knowing this is one story that had a happy ending, which is still being written today as my friend lives out her life with her family and helping others by giving them a voice.

Stay tuned next week for Cee Cee’s story.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.