One thing often leads to another. I finished the book by Cornelia Read called “Invisible Boy.” It was a heart-wrenching story of a little boy who was murdered the day before he turned three.

His mother Angela not only saw her own mother’s boyfriend kill her when she was a child herself, but her mother fell dead on top of her.

Angela was eight months pregnant with a little girl when her son’s case came to trial. On the stand she told the judge and jury that Edward was beaten by her boyfriend, Albert, the father of her baby. 

A 43 year old nurse, ravaged by cancer, was brought to court in a wheelchair to testify that she heard these beatings from her downstairs apartment. She refused to die until she could communicate that she tried to intervene for Edward.

But when the social worker went to check it out, the family had left to stay in a motel the city was paying for. 

Angela showed no emotion, just petulance, as she described that her boyfriend Albert hit little Edward with his fist in the chest a number of times.

Then they sat down together to watch a TV show while he lay motionless on the floor. She did not even get up to see if her child was alive or dead. 

She said that Albert put Edward’s body in the motel refrigerator, where the body stayed for two weeks.

Then Albert put him in the old churchyard, where he was found about six months later.

During those two weeks after Edward died, they remained in the motel doing drugs. As if it was perfectly normal that a little boy was crammed into the motel refrigerator just a few feet away from their bed. 

As it turned out Albert was convicted of manslaughter, and Angela was only given a slap on the wrist.

Well, this got me to thinking about an article I wrote about child abuse once upon a time.

I couldn’t recall the particulars of the story, so I went searching through my things for the old duffel bag that held my writings.

While I was in there, I found the publication for feature writing for the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

Can you tell which one I am? I just opened it up to the page and took a photo.

Second person, second row. Big glasses. A mother of two attending college and writing articles on the side. 

I remember I was horrified when I found out one of my journalism professors had turned my name in for various awards that year. Of which I won four in some capacity for feature writing.

My article was about a woman I interviewed, a victim of incest. Her perpetrators? Both of her grandfathers. One the town drunk. The other a minister of a prominent church. 

I remember having to pick out a fancy dress to attend one award ceremony. 

I was NOT in my comfort zone. I had to walk to the podium to receive my award, that one being The Gaylord Award. Standing in front of a bunch of people, even if I didn’t have to say a thing, scared me half to death.

While in the duffel bag I happened to unzip a side pocket. I had no idea what was in there. I found all kinds of things. Cards my children made me when they were little. A letter from my ex about a year before we were married, signed “I will love you forever.” 

In one article, I had written about a home where young unwed mothers could live with their children while attending school. I wonder if there are still places like that? 

In one, I wrote about a little boy I called David who was molested by both his parents.

The boy lived in a treatment center for children who had been abused. David hated women, and acted like an old pervert in a young boy’s body. He was not allowed any time alone with women working there or otherwise. It was found that he suffered from schizophrenia and also had a low IQ.

I asked Todd, the director of the treatment center, if young babies remember abuse. He told me that if babies could act out, they would. That a baby can take a lot of abuse for a long time. 

Bonding should occur in the first year of life – basic trust versus mistrust. If a young child does not learn trust as a young baby, it will take a long time, if ever, to overcome this, he told me. 

I asked Todd how much worse could a case get than that of David. He said: “Death. David’s alive. He’s out of the home.”

One little boy came up and kicked me. This seemed to be an ordinary occurrence.

There were lots of cameras at this treatment center. Todd told me that this was so the child can see him or herself. Mirrors are also important so that a child can get a perception of themselves. “In a deprived home,” he said, “you won’t see a mirror.”

Just weeks before I went to the treatment facility and interviewed the staff, baby “Charlie” had been murdered in Oklahoma City. Charlie Elaine. I won’t state her last name here. She was seven months old. 

The department of human services had seen the child on February 26, 1988. Just three days later, the baby died of massive head trauma. A case of too little, too late. 

I wrote: 

For all the baby Charlies, we beg forgiveness for a world we cannot make safe for them, for all the chances we cannot give them. For the cries gone unanswered.

The tiny girl touched us all. We can only shed tears now for the child too young to run away from the brutality, from the blows that beat the life out of her precious little body. 

We did not hear baby Charlie crying. 

Baby Charlie doesn’t cry anymore. 


Children are usually killed by family members, not strangers. A stranger killing is very rare. No, it is almost always a close family member who manages to wreak such horrific acts on a child. 

And I, having been the little girl whose parents sold her, and thus had to grow up in a small town with that legacy, was determined to make the facts known. 

I wanted these children and other victims to matter. To be more than a case number. 

I started that article about child abuse with a quote by Oscar Wilde…

“Children begin by loving their parents. As they grow older they judge them. Sometimes they forgive them.” – Oscar Wilde


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  1. Sadly, Edwards mother learned indifference through her upbringing. She deserved to be punished, of course, but to what end? Her childhood was horrific. She was given a life sentence at birth. Hopefully, she never gave birth again.

  2. Sadly, Edwards mother learned indifference through her upbringing. She deserved to be punished, of course, but to what end? Her childhood was horrific. She was given a life sentence at birth. Hopefully, she never gave birth again.

  3. Brenda,
    Gives me chills and sickens me that abuse is all around us. Some say it is mental illness, I just don't know if that is true-it is an unthinkable act and those who stand by are just as guilty as those that committ the act.

  4. So much for mama bear instinct. Years ago a priest was talking and said…before their baby is born everyone says I just hope the baby is normal. 9 times out of 10 they are it's what happens to them after birth that changes that…..I've never forgotten how true that is. By the way your photo was adorable.

  5. This is a searing post. I almost feel as if I am unable to breathe.

    For years, I taught/worked with Special Ed students who were crowned with that terrible designation because of their extreme behavioural issues ('think' of all the extremely vilest acts you can imagine). Can you guess which kinds of homes created these unhappy little children?

    I had to leave that line of teaching due to the mental stress and physical toll (concussions, raised BP being only two of the issues) and switched to working with students with cognitive delays.

    Minutes ago, I was talking with my daughter who lives/teaches thousands of miles away from me in another part of Canada. She mentioned her school may be getting such a class next year. My heart did a flip-flop in my chest. Two years along from having worked with these damaged children still causes me heartache. My biggest concern? I only 'worked' with these students and I feel damaged by what they endured and lived. How can humans, and I may be incorrect using the word 'humans', possibly treat their precious children in such atrocious ways??

  6. Sometimes this is a horrible world we live in, and insufferable for the little children. I hate it. Meanwhile, yes there are still homes like that, our church helps support a local one here in Richmond called Mercy Moms.

  7. as a former child protective social worker I saw and heard of the worse then this. Having worked in that field for so long, I now cannot read about such things as it brings up to much memory of the abused children and affects my nervous system, my well being and my sleep that was in a state of shock for years because of the work I did. . I saved many children when I worked as a protective social worker and I let that be my contribution. I have to leave such reading to the rest of you and read for pleasure only an relaxation. I cannot read such books but I know many like to know the stories. I lived the stories day in day out and that was enough for me to handle.

  8. Powerful and tragic stories Brenda. So sad that these terrible things happen to those who are most innocent.

    Edward's mother was mentally ill, but what she allowed to happen is unforgivable. A slap on the wrist? I don't get it.

  9. I think the mother should of been punished too. She was a huge part of that child's life and should of done something to protect him. Parents aren't parents because they birth a baby. It's so sad this little boy lost his life and only knew pain. You write so beautiful, but story like this bring back a lot of pain. PS…I'm still in computer hell!

  10. I hear you, Brenda! Child abuse cannot be tolerated, nor ever handled lightly. I am so sorry you had to go through such terrible ordeal as a child. No one should ever go through so much pain. You are a voice for those children who have suffered abuse and most of all for those who sadly because of it are no longer with us.Words escape my mind right now, there is so much we as a society have to do to help our children but above all to prevent the abuse. I think your appreciation for nature, beauty and simple things is a response from you which shows a sensibility and gratefulness that only people who have gone through a lot usually manifests and others many times take for granted.
    You look very pretty on the photo Brenda! You take care "amiguita"!

    "I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars."

    Og Mandino

  11. Brenda, what you cannot say in person you say with your writing. You touch so many of us with your words, your insights and your humanity. I've seen a little bit of child abuse and it turns my stomach that parents can do that to their children. So sad.


  12. As usual you take my breath away. Your gift for communicating these stories is quite unique. I suppose because your point of view is so personal. You speak for all those who cannot

  13. In the case of little Edward, I do not think the mother should have been given a slap on the wrist. Though the boyfriend killed their son, she did nothing to stop it or to help Edward. She is just as much a monster as he is! Lots of people are abused in childhood, but do not go on to commit such heinous acts against others.

    We need stricter punishments for crimes against children. Otherwise the brutality will continue. These predators get a slap on the wrist and maybe a little jail time, but many are released back into society and go right back to their old ways….often committing even worse crimes (murder).

    We live in a very sad, sick world. Your family is supposed to love and protect you and it's just unimaginable to me how these so-called parents (or other family members) can harm their children like this!

  14. Whoa. Brenda, you SHOULD be writing. How you endured all those horrific stories, I don't know. I guess if you have your own horrific story it's easier. It's awful that humans do such things. But as you pointed out, how a child is treated makes or breaks his future. And there are so many broken people being raised by broken people who were raised by broken people. So much pain.

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