Hate of step-children by stepfathers

first_imgDear Editor,The death of 10-year-old Johnathan Rampersaud, who was found hanging last week at his home at Success, East Coast Demerara, has triggered certain memories and evoked a surge of raw emotions in me.The media reported that he was found hanging by a sheet, and that his stepfather was alone with him at the time, and has since been arrested. Media interviews of the little boy’s neighbours and his biological father raised the issue of cruelty meted out to him. Who knows what horrors this innocent child must have endured?This hurt me to my core, because while I was still a small child, I witnessed extreme brutality inflicted by a step-father on a little boy named Karosh, who was unable to fend for himself, and could only shed tears and dream of a time when it would all end.I was too small to do anything to help that little boy, but I know the daily agony, humiliation and frustration he endured. I know the total helplessness he felt, and how bitterness and hatred tried to take over his heart, mind and soul. Out of respect for his privacy, I will not give clues about his identity; but the way he turned childhood anguish into adult triumph is a remarkable story with lessons for everyone.What this little boy’s stepfather did to him was not ordinary abuse. Imagine a grown man lifting a slender boy, seven years old, shoulder high and then throwing him viciously to the ground for sheer cruel entertainment. The boy was only a good looking, precious, sweet little child. Imagine a stepfather creeping up behind a little boy who is happily playing marbles, just to surprise him with a sudden, powerful lash with a whip across his two shoulder blades, blows that hurt his back until this day. This man was probably the physically strongest man that I had ever seen.Think of that young boy being beaten to a pulp repeatedly, with his whole body swollen and hurting, blood oozing from multiple wounds. Imagine this child being brutalised constantly, being called a blight and a curse who would never amount to anything good in life, and being left to run down the street with filth on his butt while people laughed at him and mocked him at the age of two or three.When the media reported on the hanging of little Jonathan, a vision of an incident with that other little boy came into my mind right away. I recalled his stepfather tying his wrists, pulling him off his feet and into the air, then leaving him hanging by his wrists for over 30 minutes with nothing but his thoughts speaking to the universe as his step-brothers watched him writhe in pain and shame. He was just about five years old at the time.Three or four times a year, when it became too much, his mother would dress him in his little short pants and send him to spend time with an aunt by the Punt Trench Damn in Line Path Village, aka, ‘Cow Pen’. She would watch, with tears in her eyes, as he walked down the road, making his little way to a safer place. As he made his way to that aunt, he would turn around and look at her and smile, knowing that he would suffer no disgrace, no insult, no pain, no torment, no abuse, nothing. His mom would then go and get him a week or two later.All the time this little boy was being abused by his stepfather, he was also forced to look on helplessly as his mother was subjected to similar abuse. The boy watched as his mother was shouted at, cursed, shoved, and beaten until she was bloodied and black-and-blue. Yet she still tried to provide some comfort for her children by going to cook their lunchtime meals. He could see that she could hardly stand. At that time, she was making babies every year.I do not know if people can visualise the torment of a growing boy whose stepfather would immediately fly into a violent rage if he came home and saw the boy with a book. When the boy became a teenager and had to study for exams, his stepfather disrupted his studies all the time by cursing him using filthy language.The boy would seek refuge at his stepfather’s brother who admired and loved him. Driven by a passionate need for guidance, blessings and leadership from positive male role models, the boy started spending time with imams, Christian priests, pandits, teachers and other adults from whom he could learn about life, humanity, philosophy and religion. When his stepfather found out, he laughed and accused the boy of consorting with obeah men.I often reflect on the enormous damage the stepfather could have done to this boy’s psyche. Child abuse can lead to so many mental disorders, which are in some cases irreparable. Sometimes child abuse can lead to suicide or to the children becoming monsters themselves as adults. It affects the way they analyse life and respond to stressful situations both as children and as adults. Their relationships with their families and friends also suffer. It can even affect their physical health. It’s like a poison in body and mind. The body’s entire wiring is altered.However, this boy I spoke about was able to gather up his life and grow up to be an outstanding, respected son of the soil, and I always think that it was through divine intervention. I can only marvel at the mercy, kindness and grace of the Glorious and Almighty God.He did confide in me, saying that he is still haunted by what he experienced. He still cannot understand what he could have done to have attracted such deep cruelty.I believe this brutalised boy was rewarded by Almighty God because what didn’t kill him made him stronger. Even at the height of his ordeal, he did not give in to hatred or ‘doom and gloom’. The child became a pleasant and good gentleman, considered today to be a scholar and statesman who is never vengeful or hateful. He prays for his stepfather, has forgiven him, and blesses him.He asks God to forgive his abuser and take the abuse off of his record, so that he might have sanctuary in paradise when he passes away. The boy became an intellectual, a leader, a man of wisdom, a man of society, a businessman. Even those who are envious of him respect him. And through it all, he has honoured his stepfather, supported him, and did everything in his power to make life comfortable for him.Despite his successes, his experiences still bring tears to his eyes in his private moments, but he said his faith keeps him strong, and he is grateful for the divine sanction that has allowed him to succeed in circumstances where so many others fail.In this case, it seems to me that there was divine retribution, because the abused stepson was the only one who took the family name and carried it to prosperity and greatness. The stepfather’s children were the ones who brought failure and distress to the family. When the stepfather looks at his offspring, all he sees is pain, shame, prison, violence and suffering, but his stepson’s life is a shining success. At the age of 18, he changed his name to his stepfather’s family name.I shared this story because I want the public agencies that help victims of child abuse to encourage them to show resilience, and not to give in to thoughts of hatred and vengeance. I also want the public to know that survivors of child abuse can be driven by a strong sense of moral purpose. They often have a strong desire to help others, and use their intellectual strengths and creative talents to seek peace and unity.Most importantly, I want our society to put mechanisms in place to improve detection of child abuse by making more people aware of danger signs in families. Society has to step up the systems of intervention, prosecution and punishment, and also provide suitable support and counselling for abused children.The little boy I referred to above is not a typical survivor of child abuse, and I believe he has a divine purpose to fulfill. One of the lessons of his story is that society’s anger and stigma should not fall on victims of child abuse, or else they might give in to vengeance and hatred. Then the traumatised children will become failing adults who fill our jails and overburden our human services agencies.Jonathan is not alone. Too often we hear about step parents physically and sexually abusing their stepchildren. In New York, a Guyanese woman, Shamdai Arjun, was convicted of strangling her stepdaughter Ashdeep Kaur, who was found dead in a bathtub. Arjun has since been jailed.The cruelties unleashed on any child will revisit the minds of the man or mother who inflicts such cruelties on innocent children.I want to see justice for Jonathan. I want to see his killer jailed for life. Too often, I hear of cases where the abusers get a slap on the wrist and are released from jail when they are still young. Just recently, we heard of the case of 25-year-old Brian Bobb-Semple who was given a 23-year sentence for the murder of nine-year-old Shaquan Gittens.Little Shaquan was snatched by this beast and taken to a place where he was sexually abused and choked to death. In my opinion, the sentence was not justice; Shaquan is dead and gone, Bobb-Semple lives to see another day, and has hope of resuming his life not too far down the line. Where is the justice?I wish to end with a quote from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, ‘Tomlinson’ “For the sin that ye do by two and two ye must pay for one by one!Sincerely,Haji Roshan Khan Snr.last_img read more