Saturday, April 29, 2006

Child Abuse Prevention Month


The observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month is a Presidential declaration that is celebrated every year in April. It focuses on the importance of providing children with a safe and nurturing environment in which they can grow to their full potential as responsible adults and members of society.

Child Abuse Prevention Month aims to encourage everyone to play an active role in identifying and preventing all forms of child abuse. Child abuse takes many forms and is not always immediately recognized or addressed. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (42 U.S.C.A. 510g) defines child abuse and neglect, at a minimum, as "any recent act or failure on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."

Caregivers, adults, and members of society in general have a moral obligation to protect all children from abusive experiences. Communities and schools can raise awareness through parent education programs and public education campaigns. In an emergency, call your local police department to ensure the immediate safety of an abused child.

If you have concerns that a child is being abused or neglected, contact the Child Help USA National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 422-4453.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lifted hands

Last night I watched an ABC Prime Time two-hour special. It included video footage of a teenage girl who jerked her hands up to her head when her stepmother hollered at her. I've jerked my hands up to my head many times like that. I assumed that the girl in the program had good reason to do so also. Here is a poem that was born from watching that girl reflexively protect herself just as I have done, and still sometimes do:

Lifted hands

Some people praise
the Lord with hands lifted high.
But I quickly raise
my hands to protect my head.
Oh, Lord, you turned
the water into wine
to help a marriage feast.
Please turn the lifting
of my hands to protect
me from the beast,
to reaching up
to you for help
so my raised
hands can praise.

Friday, April 21, 2006

poetry reading canceled

I was contacted recently about the possibility of reading some of my recovery poetry during a church sermon on forgiveness. I was willing to do the reading although I explained that children and young people in the church should probably not be exposed to some of my poetry. I suggested that I read only one poem, "Unstuck," at the service. The ministers discussed the matter and decided not to have me read this time. I do prefer a reading environment more like that of a coffee house, with the lights turned low, and where I can read under my pen name of Al Johnson. I need to protect my family and not give public presentations under my real name.

I have always found it a therapeutic, although stressful, situation to read my recovery poetry. It is scarey, because we do not know how people will receive it. I realize that it is other people's problem if they minimize the impact of abuse we have received and which we describe in poetry or other ways. But it still never feels good to have something so person be rejected. It's still part of my needed growth, but when others minimize my experience or say that I should write about more positive things, I feel personal rejection. Most of the time, however, people are understanding and even sympathetic when they hear me read my recovery poetry. And that kind of reception is very helpful as part of my longterm program of recovery.

Friday, April 14, 2006


I've had several vivid dreams about my father (my abuser) recently. In one of them, a long, extended dream, I kept running away, trying to find a safe place to sleep. Dad kept tracking me down, no matter how far I ran or where I tried to hide.

Dad used to wake me up from my sleep. I would beg him not to. He said he did it to find out if I was still breathing.

My wife tells me that having dreams like this is one way for our minds to deal with things that they might not be able to deal with consciously. I think she's right.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The flower

One day as I was walking
I came upon a house
with many lovely flowers.
I stopped to admire
the gardener's work.
And then I spotted one flower
upon the ground.
It lay near my feet.
I bent down and noticed
that its stem had been cut,
the flower just abandoned.
I wondered who would have done
such a senseless thing.
I picked it up
and saw its petals
had begun to droop.
Some drops of morning dew
slid tearlike to the earth.
Two fell upon my hand.
I slowly turned the flower
and saw that all its parts were there.
I did not know how long ago
it had been cut
but its scent was still alive.
I thought that I could
take it home
and put it in a dish.
Perhaps some water would
restore the petals
to their proper state.
But then I realized that the gardener
should be the one to nurse it,
he or she knew best.
And so I walked up to the door
and rang the bell.
The door was opened soon
and I told how I had found
that flower as I was passing by.
The gardener held it close.
I knew it would
be cared for even better
than I could.
I walked back home,
the sight and smell
of that one flower
still lingering on my mind