November 25, 2005
No item on Project NoSpank within recent memory has generated as much heartfelt concern as The Story of Lois (Not her real name). Readers watched with dismay and sadness as new information arrived from the father -- photos of the most recent round of bruises, copies of correspondence between him and the authorities, transcribed portions of conversations, etc. We published much of this material as it arrived.
The photographs showed what appeared to be the results of blunt-instrument blows with impact areas ranging in size from about 1 to 2 inches -- not the kind of bruising that typically results from innocent falls or so-called "playground accidents." Some of the bruises are in locations that are highly unlikely to be impacted as a result of falling. And, of course, there are the child's own straight-forward statements about who bruised her. Those statements have been discredited by some investigators as having been coached. One who privately interviewed her claimed to have detected inconsistencies in the 4-year-old's answers and dismissed the lot.
Also, we have been told by certain investigators that because these bruises are almost exclusively on the arms and legs, they don't qualify as real child abuse -- not in Los Angeles County. Bruises on the torso or head, perhaps; bruises on the limbs, no.
One L.A. social worker dealing with this case opined that corporal punishment can't be so bad because it is used to good effect on teenagers in boot camps. The point he was making would seem, in this context, to be a nonsequitur since Lois' bruises purportedly were the result of normal child's play, not punishment.
As for the number of bruises on Lois in an especially bad week, as shown in the photographs, I estimate that number to be in excess of the number of bruises of similar severity sustained by my 9-year-old granddaughter over the course of her lifetime to date.
Admittedly, we were in no position to vouchsafe the accuracy of every claim and the authenticity of every item sent to us. That's detective work, and we aren't detectives. But taken as a whole, the body of information based on conversations with the father, with his current wife and with the child, and the emailed materials, had the ring of authenticity. There were no false notes, no suspicious discrepancies, no conflicting stories. Was there emotionalism in some of the reporting? Yes indeed. Had it been missing, that would have been suspicious. So, we accepted the information in good faith and offered it to readers without editorial comment. If, at any point, we had become aware of an error or falsehood in the reporting, we would have corrected it immediately.
Initially, all identities in our posted materials were redacted. A reader wouldn't have known if this were taking place in Los Angeles or Topeka. Lois was an abstraction, a symbol. While her story provided a valuable lesson on the general topic of child abuse, it did not bring about any improvement in the life of the real girl. In fact, her plight seemed to worsen.
On one of the dad's scheduled visits, when the bruises were more numerous than usual, he reported them and was warned by a social worker that his claims are a figment of his "belief system," that he is delusional, that his obsessive behavior constitutes the real abuse of Lois, and that he will lose visitation rights if he persists. He took those threats seriously. He was desperate. At that point, we decided to restore all the redacted information on the Web page: names, places, badge numbers, titles, telephone numbers, etc. After carefully weighing the pros and cons of removing the black rectangles that hid Lois' face, we did that too. We sent notices with links to the Web page to media and government officials high and low in California.
Then things started to happen.
On Oct. 26, 2005, at 5:03 pm, after picking up Lois from school for their scheduled visit (something she always eagerly looked forward to), and arriving home, there was a posse of 8 officials waiting to seize the child. Clearly, they were poised for action. Instead, the scene was calm -- outwardly, at least. When Lois pleaded with her dad not to let them take her away, he told her he couldn't stop them. He hugged her and reassured her that he would see her as soon as possible. He told her not to be afraid and kissed her goodbye. The events of that day will be etched in her memory for her lifetime.
If you are wondering why they rescued the child from the party who reported abuse rather than from the one who apparently inflicted it, you aren't alone.
On November 22, 2005, I spent much of my time talking to lawyers -- friendly ones and not-so-friendly ones. I would not burden the reader with the details of those conversations even if I could remember them. It boils down to this: the focus of attention has shifted away from the child and is now aimed at our organization. That doesn't help Lois and, if the lawyers are right, puts PTAVE in considerable jeopardy. Additionally, it puts me under a lot of strain. Consequently, I have taken the story off line, and have used the pseudonym, "Lois," in this letter. I am satisfied that this organization has done everything possible to serve this child's best interests, and we would do it exactly the same way again if we had it to do over.
I am confident that the many honest visitors to this Web site who have viewed the collection of 33 photographs of suspicious bruises don't need further proof. I am equally convinced that no amount of proof will ever penetrate the wall of denial erected by those whose own unhealed childhood wounds make it impossible for them to bear witness to another child's suffering.
Those members of the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services whose principal aim is not the protection of children, but rather the pursuit of their private agendas, are now breathing a sigh of relief. The curtains are drawn shut ("for the protection of the child," they will tell you) and things are back to normal. The dependency court's proceedings, currently under way, are secret, the outcome sealed and we are forbidden to report further. I can only hope that the good people working quietly behind the scenes -- the ones who recognize what has happened, and continues to happen, to Lois -- will discover the power of speech and refuse to be bamboozled into accepting a version of "the truth" that conflicts with the evidence.
We wish Lois the best of luck. We'll try to keep track of her, and when she turns 18 we'll hand her the entire dossier dealing with her case.
Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir.
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