Sunday, April 26, 2009

Interview with Judy

Have you experienced abuse or seen a friend abused?
Well, there are many kinds of abuse and I think that when people think of abuse, they're thinking about physical abuse or assault. I did not experience that as a child but I watched my best friend go through it for years- first with her father and then with her boyfriends. On the other hand, I was the victim of emotional and verbal abuse as a child, and also neglect, which I believe is a form of abuse. I don't think that one kind is worse than the other. All forms of abuse intimidate, shame, and damage children (or adults) and overcoming that takes a tremendous amount of work. Or a lifetime.

Should penalties be higher for the abusers?
I honestly don't know what the penalties are from state to state, so I can't say. I work with an advocacy group for victims of violent crimes and I know that without help, trauma can fill a life for a very long time. I don't think courts should be lenient with people who damage others, especially children.

Why do so many people get away with it?
For the most part, women are afraid to tell on their abusers because they fear reprisal. What if you lived with a man who abused you and held your life in his hands? What if he held the purse strings too? How could you break away from that and turn this person in? Many abused people are very beat down and not able to get out or report their abusers. Sometimes if they do, they are stalked and killed.

Bad Girls Club portrays such strong graphics. What did you want to get across?
I wanted people to get into the head of a parentified and abused child and take the ride with her. My greatest desire was for readers to truly feel and experience the life that my main character had and to fully sympathize with her. I believe I was successful at doing that. But there are no graphic scenes of abuse in my book. Anything that happens, other than some verbal sword fights, happen off stage and for good reason. My book wasn't about victimizing the victim, which is a form of literature I have no interest in. My book was about how this teen found a way to survive, how she subsequently lost her soul and her identity and then had to pick herself up and find a way to find her life. I don't know that you can understand what that is like unless you have been there and I wanted to take the reader into Destiny's head for a while and let them get on that roller coaster with her so that they'd understand why she couldn't turn in her mother and father and why she had to protect her father. Children like this are very loyal and very protective of their parents. A child's attachment to an abusing parent is very crooked but it's very strong. It's easy for people to say, "Oh, you should do something about this," but until you've been in those shoes, you don't know what you will or won't be able to do. I also wanted to show the people around a teenager like this--the friend who is loyal (to a detriment), the people on the outside who watch and do nothing. And family members who live in denial. I've had many people--reviewers, teachers, librarians, and mental health experts--compare my book to A Child Called It, but they all say that it truly explains the generational cycle of abuse in a way that the light goes on and you can say, "Ah, hah! I get it now." And that is what I set out to do.
I think child abuse is one of the worst crimes ever. Do you agree or disagree?Hurting a little child who cannot defend herself is an awful crime. I do believe it's one of the worst crimes ever. But abusers pick on small people because they can get away with it. Maybe that's why they're in real danger once they get inside a prison because it's considered a very vile crime.

With the abuse we already give ourselves (the fight to be thin, to be perfect, the cutting, drinking etc.) we dont need adults adding. What would you say to that?
I think they're very different things but I agree that we don't need anyone adding problems to our lives. I can't tell you the years I spent getting over the shame I felt about who I was and what I saw in my own home as a child. I could tell you stories that would make your blood curdle, even though I was never physically hit. But I was so beat into the ground by what went on there, for which my parents were responsible, and the wounds were not visible. That is one point I made in my book. Destiny had no visible wounds. Does that mean she's not damaged or dying inside?

Any last thoughts?
It's great that we have a month to talk about these issues. I wish I could stand in front of crowds of teenagers and talk to them about these things. Kids need to understand how their words and actions can hurt someone and there's a whole group of kids out there who are hurting and need help and they don't know who to reach out to. I'd like to help them find resources so they can heal.

Thanks so much Judy! Check out her book Bad Girls Club for more info on child abuse. If you or someone you know are being abused contact your local law enforcement.

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