Warning labels have been around for a long time. Posted on signs or product labels in effort to keep us safe. They are everywhere. Just take a look on cigarette packs, toys, and cleaning products. McDonald’s was even forced to add a “Caution: hot contents” warning on their disposable drink cups. I mean wouldn’t you be surprised to discover that coffee is traditionally served hot?! Crazy huh? The truth is that someone actually filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s for serious burns on her thighs, buttocks, groin and genital areas from their coffee. In court it was revealed that this fast food chain brewed their coffee with heat so high as it caused 3rd degree burns within 1 – 7 seconds. McDonald’s had been made aware for years that hundreds of customers had been severely hurt but refused to adjust the temperature. (www.caoc.org/?pg=facts)
I remember hearing about the lawsuit in the news and completely judging it. I truly saw it as someone being “sue happy” and trying to make a quick buck. I was surprised to learn the injured/disfigured plaintiff originally asked for $20,000 to cover medical expenses and lost income. McDonald’s position was the customer was partially at fault and offered her $800. It was revealed that according to the company operations manual it was required the temperature be made at a dangerous degree. McDonald’s admitted it had known of the serious risk for more than a decade. The number of burns were minuscule compared to the number of cups of coffee sold so they didn’t take it seriously. In the end the fast-food chain could not explain why they didn’t adjust the coffee temperature to safe levels and why they didn’t warn customers of the risk.
So after the facts were presented it was clear this wasn’t a frivolous lawsuit. It was overwhelmingly clear McDonald’s was liable and negligent. In attempt to send a message to the large corporation for their gross disregard of customer safety, the jury awarded the plaintiff $2.7 million.
Now everywhere you look you can find written caution signs for: choking, electrocution, suffocation and much, much more.
So where are the warning labels protecting children from abuse?
Who do we easily and automatically give others access to our children? In my case it wasn’t acquaintances or strangers but family. Relatives were automatically trusted to be around young family members. These dangerous people were allowed babysit my brother, sister and I, take me places in their car, and even sleep with me in my bed. Did my parents ever suspect something was wrong? Or were they like McDonald’s and just chose to ignore it?
In 2014, state agencies found and estimated 702,000 victims of child mistreatment – this would pack 10 modern football stadiums! Around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involve at least one parent as perpetrator. (childhelp.org/statistics)
Another child advocacy organization reported the people investigated for abuse were: 51% relative of the child, 39% parent, and 10% known, not family. (www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/media-kit/national-statistics-child-abuse)
I believe it is possible to end these high statistics but we all have to change. In my family the history of childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect runs deep. I was abused in all these ways by my uncle, step-grandfather, aunt, cousin, mother and father. As awful as the truth is we can’t hide or run from it. All that will do is allow future generations inherit the bloody scars of secrets, pain and misery.
We all have a part to play in ending this type of dangerous legacy. Are we willing to speak the truth in the hopes of protecting our children? Would you be willing to exclude known or suspected pedophiles to family events? Or would that feel disloyal? Could you muster the courage to call the police and report crimes placed against your nieces and nephews? Even if was perpetuated by your brother, father or aunt?
It only took 1 -7 seconds for the McDonald’s customer to have 3rd degree burns on her body from the coffee. I can honestly attest that wounds and scars from childhood abuse are much more painful and will disfigure your mind, heart and soul.
My last living sexual abuser still refuses to take accountability for his actions. I’ve been told time and time again that he has given his life over to Jesus and is a different person. I truly wish this was the case. I mean even if it were true does that mean all remaining consequences just disappear? Does that mean he is now safe to be around young family members? Or any children at all? There are people in our family that desperately want to believe it is so. It is this kind of thinking and response and keeps the child abuse statistics high.
Speaking the truth, calling the police, and even writing this blog is not disrespectful and wrong. In fact it is just the opposite. There are too many families living in secrets, lies, denial and codependency. Year after year, generation after generation it begins to blur and feel natural to look the other way. There is a reason for the saying: The truth will set you free. Setting something free means it first must be in bondage.
We need the courage to dig up those deeply buried keys and place them in the old rusty locks to rescue future descendants. Just as I prejudged the plaintiff who filed the case against McDonald’s before knowing the facts. We need to stop criticizing and shunning those who were too young to understand or stop the crimes committed against them.
If it were possible I would erase the many of years of sexual abuse, the beatings, slaps and decades of yelling and screaming. I’m still learning how my abuse disfigured my thinking and responses in so many ways. How it has prevented me from trusting and bonding with others, and most of all loving myself. I’m grateful my story didn’t end when my abuse stopped. In spite of my rough start I’ve had a wonderful life. Many challenges along the way but I’m grateful for the life I’ve lived so far.
Now that I’m older, healthier, and in a happier place I desire to become to others what I needed when I was younger. My hope as you read my story it opens your eyes to realize there are children who need help. Sometimes the ones you least expect. Maybe my story doesn’t exist in your family (and I sincerely hope this is the case). But what if you discovered it does? April is Childhood Prevention Month which is a great opportunity to talk about how to identify and end maltreatment of precious children.
Speaking out is the first step!