Eain Brooks R.I.P.
Eain Brooks R.I.P.
I decided to bring two candles to the vigil. A white one, because that seemed appropriate for memorializing a dead child, and a cute, blue one shaped like a six, because today would have been Eain’s sixth birthday.
Every year over 1,500 American children experience abuse so dramatic and violent it immediately ends their life. Eain Brooks was one such child.
Why do people abuse children? That question takes us to the wrong place. We live in a world where over 20% of adults have survived child abuse, and over 80% have survived at least one of the Adverse Childhood Experiences that were identified in a landmark study. Most, but not all, of the ACE’s describe situations that can be classed as child abuse or neglect. That means we have a society where a huge percentage of the population has experienced trauma significant enough to shorten their lifespan and decrease its quality. “Excuse” is a legal term meaning “something that spares someone consequences for their actions”. Unless someone’s abuse has resulted in clinical insanity, being an abuse victim is not an excuse for abusing someone. But suffering enormous damage, bearing huge amounts of rage and anger and sacrificing empathy in order to survive does tip the statistical odds in favor of someone becoming an abuser. There are other people out there who can write about this much better than I can. To me, the more significant question is why do we, as a society, allow abuse to happen?
Researchers have known how to prevent most non-sexual child abuse for about forty years. Let that really sink in. Those 1500 children I mentioned earlier, who experience abuse so dramatic and violent it immediately ends their life- we’ve known how to keep most of them from dieing for the last several decades. So why do we let the deaths happen? The programs that prevent them aren’t punitive- the two with the best supportive data are Healthy Families America and Nurse Family Partnership. They don’t involve throwing bad guys into prison- they involve training new parents in a very intensive, supportive way, so they don’t become “bad guys” and bad parents. They get their own lives together (most of these parents at high risk to abuse their children have high ACE scores of their own), and they actually become less of a tax burden. The programs cost money- even though they save a little in the short-term, and a lot in the long term. They minimize the number of posthumous birthday parties for little kids that your average city will host in a year, but that detail tends to get lost in hand-wringing about the budget.
We’ve all heard the poem attributed to holocaust survivor Martin Niemöller that reads:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”
We’re content to apply this philosophy when it comes to children’s issues. We’re content to let a broken family court system stay broken. Even if you read a headline about a convicted sex offender getting sole custody of his daughter- a little girl the same age as the girl he was convicted for molesting – we don’t lose sleep. It’ll never happen to my child.
We let Child Protective Services throughout the country rot away with slashed budgets, caseloads that are several hundred percent of what is recommended, minimal accountability and few incentives to try and fix things. CPS dysfunction is considered a major factor in the death of Eain Brooks. We’re content living in a country where 90-97% of those who sexually abuse a child will never see a day behind bars, largely because statutes of limitations on the crime deny justice to most survivors, who take an average of over 21 years to be able to speak about their crime. Why should I worry about this, my child will never be sexually abused? I’ve heard that 20% of kids do get sexually abused, but the odds are still in my favor.
I spent the windy night sharing candle flame with parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles of a little boy who experienced abuse so dramatic and violent it immediately ended his life. Not one of them thought they’d be doing this a year ago. Nor did I, this now-grown-little-girl, who also almost died from child abuse – but from her own hand, not the way Eain died – expect to spend a chilly March evening working with a grieving family to make a little light in an otherwise very dark night. And in the time I spent buying candles, driving to and from Buffalo and participating in the vigil, statistically, another child died the way Eain did.
Eain had an ACE score of at least two when he died. Statistically, his life was likely to be shorter and less healthy than average. But every member of his family spoke of a little boy full of empathy, joy and love. Frank Warren, founder of the Post Secret project, always says “It’s the children the world almost breaks who grow up to save it.” This doesn’t happen 100% of the time- the world would have been saved many times over if it did. But one of the greatest joys of my adult life has been seeing how often this happens.
Eain was kept from this path, and the world is infinitely poorer for it.
We must answer the question of why, as a society, we continue to tolerate this? And we need an answer that doesn’t include disingenuous remarks about how the most damaged among us break the most fragile. We need to talk about why we’re not content to change the conversation, the systems, the laws that let this keep happening.
And we’d better do it quickly. In the time I spent writing this, statistically, another child encountered abuse so dramatic and violent it immediately ended their life.
Congressional Oversight Hearings on the Failure of Family
and Divorce Courts to Keep America’s Children Safe.
Like “Rest In Peace Eain Clayton Brooks” on Facebook
Also see, Why Do People Abuse?