My name is Aine, and I am a survivor of childhood abuse. I am telling my story because I think it is important to know that we all can take part in preventing child abuse.
April is child abuse prevention month, and the time just seems right to me. You may be one person, but to one child, you may be the world.
After what I went through, statistics would say that I would be an alcoholic, be incarcerated, and be abusing my own children who would have multiple fathers and be born out of wedlock. I should be receiving financial assistance and struggling to survive. I would probably have had my children removed from my care at one point or another and the prognosis for a healthy life for my children would be grim.
This is not the case. I have been in the same job for 27 years. My children are healthy and happy adults and I have been married to the same man for more than 20 years. They have never experienced child abuse. How did this happen? Who were those people who prevented child abuse?
I would like to take the time to thank them today.
I would like to thank the people down at ECFE [Early Childhood and Family Education], Gary and Edith, who taught me about attachment parenting and how to interact with my children in a positive way. I would like to thank ECFE for providing a space where my children could play while I learned how to parent properly so I could give my children something I had not experienced or witnessed myself. I would like to thank ECFE for providing a space where I could connect with other parents and learn that parenting is hard because it is hard if you are trying to do it right. It doesn’t mean I was doing it wrong.
I would like to thank strangers who looked at me and my children with loving eyes and kind words and allowed them to just be children when we were out in public. Strangers who helped open doors and smile at my children when I was sweating from stress!
I would like to thank the social worker at Ramsey Hospital who told me just what he thought of him when my dad abandoned me there as a 15-year-old. I heard him yelling at the social worker in the hall that he didn’t want me anymore. If you are out there somewhere Social Worker, I want you to know I saw the tears in your eyes and it meant more to me than you know. This was the first tangible evidence I ever saw that I was not the piece of crap I was led by abuse to believe I was.
I would like to thank the counselors and staff who had wanted to give up on me as a juvenile when I was living out the effects of the abuse and was considered a real handful. You never gave up on me, and for that I am grateful. I learned what it means to not give up on those you care about.
You taught me how to be there for my kids when they got to be that age.
I would like to thank the cop who arrested me on a status offense as a kid. I got to glimpse where I was heading and decided I did not want to be that person.
I decided to become a cop instead. I am a better person today and have spent more than 20 years holding offenders accountable and keeping victims safe. Thank you for not over-looking me and doing your duty, even though you might have thought it was a dumb call to have to go on. My children are healthy and happy today and thank you, too.
I would like to thank my grandmother, who loved me and protected me as often as she could. She thought she failed because my dad threatened her, too, so she had to stop. She thought she failed. She did not. I hope you can hear this up in heaven! I knew love because of you! The kind of love that would cause you to put yourself in harm’s way to protect those you love.
I was able to offer this kind of love to an entire community. I received a Medal of Valor for saving a child from child abuse. I thank you for making me brave so I could save this child.
To the community, I would like to say, please never underestimate the power of your kind words and actions. You do not need to be a professional to save a child or turn a child’s life around. You cannot throw a stone into a pond without creating a ripple. You may be only one person, but to one child, you may be the world.
Aine Bebeau is a member of the Washington County Child Protection Citizens Review Panel.