Have Mercy

Humans, humans, humans. One despairs sometimes, one really does. How can one help it.

Police and child protection experts are to investigate the extent of child abuse linked to religious practices after three adults who branded an eight-year-old child a witch and tortured her for months were yesterday convicted of child cruelty offences. The girl, known only as child B, was an orphan from war-ravaged Angola and brought to Britain by her aunt who falsely claimed to be her mother. She was cut with a knife on her chest, had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes, was starved and repeatedly slapped, kicked and beaten…In one incident child B was bundled into a laundry bag and made to believe she would be thrown in a river by Kisanga and her aunt, who believed the girl was possessed by evil spirits…Police say child B was discovered by a street warden near Kisanga’s east London flat on November 24, 2003. She had cuts and bruises and was shivering…Once all three adults surrounded the girl: “One kicked me, one slapped me and one pushed me. I asked myself, ‘What have I done?’

Was anything left out? The child has lost her parents, her country is racked by war, an aunt takes her to the UK – and then turns on her. She’s eight years old and alone with three adults who are not her parents, who don’t (chances seem to be pretty good) love her the way parents (unless things go wrong) love their children. She’s eight years old, in a strange country, and all, all alone with three people bent on torturing her. She’s eight years old, wondering what she’s done. And there are others in the same situation.

Why do people need to come up with these ingenuities? Isn’t just everyday ordinary bad-temper and meanness enough, are these refinements necessary?

One day in November 2003 Kisanga and Ms X told her they were going to kill her by throwing her into the New River, a canal near her home. She was told to take her clothes off and was forced to get into a large red and white laundry bag, which was then zipped up…Ms May said Pinto intervened to save the child and soon after the girl was dumped on the street and was spotted by two Hackney Council street wardens. She was taken into care but because she did not tell the police about her abuse she was allowed to return to Ms X on Christmas Eve 2003…Ms May told the jury when the girl finally opened up about the abuse she had undergone she also admitted to having been traumatised. “She told her interviewers that she had been suffering nightmares about people trying to kill her,” said the prosecutor.

It’s not just Africa or belief in witchcraft, either. Don’t forget the Candace Newmaker case. She failed to bond with her new adopted mother (hardly surprising at her age), so a ‘therapist’ decided she had ‘Reactive Attachment Disorder,’ meaning she hadn’t bonded with her new adopted mother. (Listen, if someone adopted me right now, it would take me a good long time to bond with her, I can tell you that. I don’t care who it is.) Well hey, it was in the DSM-IV, so it must be a real disease or at least disorder, right? Of course. So the treatment for RAD – a new and not much tested ‘treatment’ but hey, nothing ventured nothing gained, right? – was ‘rebirthing therapy.’ Wazzat? Well, what you do is, you roll the child up in a mattress and pile a lot of stuff on top of her so that she feels squashed and can’t breathe properly, and then you tell her to fight her way out. When she says she can’t, and she can’t breathe, either, you tell her she’s a coward and has to try harder. When she starts to cry, you call her a lot of names. When she says she’s dying, you call her more names, and say ‘Good, die then’ for good measure. When she dies – well, you may feel slightly stupid, but it’s too late.

The people in both cases apparently really believed they were doing the right thing. It’s hard to get the mind around that, but it appears to be the case.

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