Guest Editorial: Valene

Guest Editorial from Tricia Valene, a Mental Health Profession in Sierra County. 
She will be leaving in a few days and will be sorely missed.

Dear Editor,

I wonder what planet you grew up on. The planet I grew up on did not have protective in-laws, grandparents, extended family, friends, neighbors or even the church. Even the schools and medical professionals looked the other way, or had a friendly chat with the parents that went no where. Parents with addictions or rage from their own childhood abuse history don’t all of sudden start behaving better because of a friendly chat, and if they do, it’s typically short lived. If people knew of child abuse or spousal abuse back in the day (I was raised in the 1950’s – 1970’s), it was considered a family matter (meaning the immediate family) that was no one else’s business. No one did anything except tsk tsk, deny the child’s reality (I’m sure your Daddy didn’t mean to hurt you), and judge the family. No one offered real assistance to most child abuse victims. In my family (and many others), the grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, and neighbors would also come over and get drunk. Those with children would then drive home under the influence, with terrified children in the car, and abuse them at home for mouthing off about the danger. Keep in mind that abuse of children does not occur in a vacuum and grandparents probably did the same to the parents.

Using the editors example, I would ask each person reading this to pause for a moment and consider what it would be liked to be hit so hard on your face that it left a bruise by a person who was 3X your height, and for whom you are solely dependent for EVERYTHING you need to survive.

I’ve been in the mental health field for 30 years. Many, if not most, of the clients that I’ve seen in that time have been victims of abuse (emotional, verbal, physical, sexual) as children. Given that many of those clients are over the age of 35 yrs of age, your fairy tale about a time when the community protected children is beyond ludicrous. I see a lot of sentimental remembering of a time when things were simpler, happier, better. While this may be a feel good experience for the people weaving these tales, the truth is not feel good. If the editor were to do his homework, he would find that child abuse and spousal abuse has been codified in the law in times past. The rule of thumb is from the law that said you could only beat your spouse with a weapon that was no wider than that. Confidentiality laws prohibit people who work in social services or mental health from defending themselves against charges that they are overzealous or unfair. They can’t tell you the rest of the story about what’s really happening in the lives of the individuals and families they serve. I agree that sometimes mistakes are made by the programs designed to help. Please keep in mind that the system designed to protect children is only about 30 years old. The system is in it’s infancy, underfunded, and clearly not supported as it should be by usually quite intelligent and educated people.


Tricia Valene

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