Guest opinion: A child's story of fear, abuse, trauma

2014-04-09T00:00:00Z Guest opinion: A child's story of fear, abuse, traumaBy SARAH CORBALLY The Billings Gazette
April 09, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Looking out the window, and cautiously waiting for the moment when his father gets home, the fear begins to set in. Many reoccurring questions start to develop in his head:

“What will he do this time? Was it my fault? Will it hurt?”

Fear and anticipation begin to take over while his dad’s car starts pulling into the driveway. After noticing the angry look on his father’s face, the fear takes over. The boy jolts for the best hiding place before the father gets to the front door. The boy slides under his bed as the door begins to open, and then the sound of heavy footsteps echo through the house mimicking the pace of his ever racing heartbeat.

His father yells, “Don’t you hide from me boy. You know what’s coming for you.”

As the tears of fear run down his face, the shoes of his father come into view from underneath the bed.

“I hear you crying,” his father yells. Then, the whole bed rises from the floor and is thrown across the room.

The little boy tries to secure himself to the floor. Then, the stiff grasp of his father’s hands lift him off the floor and slams him into the wall. Words of anger burst out of his father’s mouth and eyes of fiery rage steals the very breath away from him. His father pulls him off the wall and twists him around and starts to spank him over and over. He cries with every stroke, only wishing it would just stop.

This story is real.

It came to me from one of the many resilient survivors of childhood abuse who walk among us each day. He is now a college student and loving father of two young children. He wrote to me asking to tell his story, because in his words, “the best prevention is to raise people’s awareness about the effects of child abuse.”

Lifelong problems

Unfortunately, the lifelong effects are significant. There is mounting scientific evidence that child maltreatment and household dysfunctions are risk factors for the leading causes of illness and mortality, as well as poor quality of life in the United States.

It is estimated that our country spends $124 billion dollars annually to address the downstream impacts of child maltreatment. These costs include loss of productivity, child health care costs, adult health care costs, special education, child welfare, and criminal justice costs.

As of March 2014, the number of children in foster care in Montana is the highest it’s been in at least 14 years. Please consider joining our efforts by supporting your local community programs that work toward this end. The future of our most vulnerable youth depends upon all of us doing what is necessary to prevent the eyes of one more child from seeing what too many eyes have already seen.

Report child abuse

Together, let’s make a child’s wish come true. Let’s make it just stop!

Montana children need a safe, stable family environment. Each individual in Montana can protect children who are being abused or neglected by reporting suspected abuse or neglect. To report concerns about a child’s safety, call 1-866-820-KIDS (5437).

Another way to help is by learning more about becoming a licensed foster parent. To learn about becoming a foster parent, call 1-866-936-7837 (866-9FOSTER) or e-mail

Sarah Corbally is administrator of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Child and Family Services Division in Helena.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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