People love Bella Bond not because they care about her, children or preventing child abuse but because she is the perfect victim.
Dead, silent and smiling in photos. She can’t ask anything real of anyone. People can blame neighbors and family and Bella’s mother and father while saying “We love you.” They can say they’d have done more, been better and more caring or involved – had they only known.
Every time I see some person wave Bella Bond’s name or hold a photo I have to choke back rage. I feel awful person for being angry, critical and cynical.
Here is what I know. Most people don’t care a bit about the childhood abuse, neglect and infant mortality happening in this country or there wouldn’t have higher rates of infant mortality here than the seven largest developed countries. We wouldn’t lose four to five “baby Doe’s” who like Bella does have real names. We wouldn’t have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting 678,932 victims of child abuse and neglect reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) in 2013 – with more than a quarter of them under the age of three.
But we do. We do. Now you know too and can’t say, “I didn’t know.”
If Bella Bond had lived we wouldn’t know her name.
When she lived – we didn’t know her name.
Or care about her life or the struggles of anyone caring or failing to protect and provide for her.
When my friend Beth O’Malley spent decades working for the Department of Children and Families she never got a call from any of these people now honoring Bella Bond asking how they could help. I bet those DCF lines aren’t ringing today either with people offering help.
Beth didn’t get balloons or stuffed animals or money to share with the babies, toddlers and children abused, tortured and abandoned.
Most of us didn’t offer spare rooms or extra houses to toddlers and parents who bounce through the system and society like a Pogo stick on the pavement.
Had Bella lived where would the people who claim to love her be? Where are they now while babies and children are dying daily?
I had nightmares the night I heard Bella Bond was punched to death. It felt as though my own bones were soft and fragile and aching.
My mother was sixteen when she went from teen to pregnant caregiver. Her baby daddy, my father, was a violent drunk who broke my ribs when I was ten months old. Supposedly, my crying enraged him. He chased my mother with a knife when she got me from the crib… She swung a six-pack at his head and knocked him out to stop him. I say supposedly because I can’t remember.
I know I am afraid of knives and panic when crying though, afraid my own feelings will provoke suicide or rage in others and fear and overwhelm in me.
My mother got pregnant again after leaving or being left. Her next husband, my step-father was older than my grandmother. 46. My mother was 20. Four of his children sometimes lived with us. One was an angry, disturbed teen who trapped bugs in jars, caught and killed animals for fun and liked an audience.
He wasn’t the kind one tattled on. Who would one tell? My father? His? My mother who opened the door that let him in? Besides, his rage wasn’t a secret. I later learned drugs were in part to blame and it wasn’t just his personality. It was a fact indistinguishable to child me. He seemed a super human crazy brother amped up living in the basement.
I’m not unusual. This isn’t an xojane “It happened to me” piece.
It’s knowing that when Bella Bond lived the people who speak of her now didn’t protect her health, happiness, safety or well-being.
And if she lived, she’d likely be a Jane Doe alive. Silenced. Invisible. Neglected. Even if her name was known. Even if her face was seen.
No one wants to see or hear how broken people break other people.
These people breakers are not strangers but inner circle. Family. Relatives. Close friends. Priests. Teachers. 90% of children who die from abuse do so at the hands of their biological parents.
It’s hard to fathom. It’s hard to know.
I ache an awful that makes me want to puke the past-filled pain and the pain-filled past. I can’t.
Most people don’t care about life after childhood abuse or neglect. Not the scraping through or by, the getting up and falling down, the making it and then losing it again. Not really.
Bella Bond would have been in agony had she lived. She’d have required help, service or attention. Maybe even tax dollars. Would the words of love said now be backed by tongues of money?
Bella Bond might have become a bed wetting six year old, a kid maybe in the system underfunded or an in-treatment at a residential home with therapeutic fostering. She might be an anxious teen on drugs or depressed. A cutter. She might have survived her abuse and then took her own life like countless others do. That’s not sensationalism. That’s truth.
I feel a horrible relief knowing Bella bond was maybe spared more abuse, neglect and indifference. She can’t continue to be tortured and injured, neglected and assaulted for days, months, years and decades. I can’t help but wonder, had she lived, if she would have become the 20-something survivor who writes to ask me if a survivor ever stops seeing the face of the perpetrator when going to sleep or having sex?
I can’t not think of the middle-aged mother who can’t tell her kids why it’s hard to get out of bed or they are having nightmares. Maybe Bella would have been like the woman who called me at close to 90 who said she felt like a damn fool for not being over it yet.
It being childhood. It being a childhood more than a half of century old. Her pain didn’t age. It’s still fresh at times. Palpable.
I can taste it.
It staggers my comprehension and makes me sick to my stomach. Violence strangles joy, hope and health from those who live and those who die.
The world wants a Baby Doe who is dead and silent and who we can claim we’d have done more for. But what about the actual Bella Bond who was in danger? It’s easier to worship a victim who can’t speak, show pain or tell her story. Easier than dealing with poverty, addiction, homelessness and violence.
To pay attention to Bella Bond now, as a headline, seems hollow. It can’t help her now or the countless others still in trouble unless it turns into action.
Five kids a day. Dying. Over half a million kids hurt. Millions and millions living the aftermath.
I must sound so pained, bitter and cynical? I am.
It’s not the way we like our victims. Angry. Adult. Speaking up and out for ourselves and survivor to survivor. And with the public.
I get how we are all full up and busy and doing the best we can most every moment. But please don’t hold photos or banners or stuffed animals. Please don’t stand before cameras and microphones.
To the people with flowers and tears who are not loved ones or truly grieving, I want to say, it sounds like empty promises. Put the microphone down. Please. Hand it over. Fill it with the voices of those dying in silence right now.
Give it to those crawling on all fours or those standing up to say here’s how it feels to live to tell the tale.
If you want to honor the memory of Bella Bond – love the truth.
Make love present tense and first person.
Note: If you want to do something please support prevention work and children, families and individuals in crisis. The things below are things I personally support if you are looking for something specific.
1. Learn about prevention at The Mama Bear Effect so children alive right now might be protected or responded to.
2. Understand the impact of adverse childhood experiences by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or read Donna Jackson Nakazawa’s book Childhood Disrupted or visit Aces Too High.
3. Support Trigger Points Anthology and tell-the-truth memoir by letting other survivors know they are not alone. Send them to In Other Words or Caged Moments (my favorite blogs) or support new survivor-led efforts like Report It, Girl.
4. Please, if you are an expert, policy maker or therapist – make sure trauma-informed care is informed by trauma survivors before and while policy is being shaped not only in delivery. Decades ago a ton of us knew and said yoga helps more than most anything else. But it wasn’t until some expert believed it that it became credible and popular. I’m glad the word is out but it oculdn’t have helped others sooner if survivors were listened to as resources with insights worthy of being shared out of $100.00 50-minute hour. Find out more about yoga via Zabie or Alexis doing groundbreaking work.
5. Support the Rape And Incest National Network (RAINN) which offers 24/7 support.
Please make a comment, share a resource or link to your silence-breaking blogs or podcasts.
Not alone. Not alone. Not alone. Not alone. Hang in there.
You Matter Mantras
- Trauma sucks. You don't.
- Write to express not to impress.
- It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
- Breathing isn't optional.