Trapped in a Bubble


Ohmyword! It seems like I’ve been trapped in a bubble.

While incapacitated  by an eye infection, I got word from a New York producer that they are planning to do a TV show about the Karly Sheehan story. This time of year always reminds me of Karly because September is when Sarah first met the man who would kill her daughter.

A person can’t help but think about the if only of life.

Child Abuse is an epidemic in this country and yet not one presidential candidate has made mention of it. Not a one. If five children a day were dying of Zika, the public would be in a uproar, demanding to know what the candidates planned to do to address the crisis. Not so with child abuse.

I think one of the most surprising parts of writing Karly Sheehan has been the number of adults who have approached me with stories of their own childhood abuse.

I didn’t think much about the survivors when I was writing Karly’s story. I was too focused on those who don’t make it. But hundreds of thousands live through child abuse, and they have to learn to make peace with the past in order to have a future.  I hear from those survivors often.

You want to know what most of them ask?

Why didn’t somebody intervene? Why didn’t someone help me? Why didn’t someone protect me?

Many of them felt trapped in the bubble, too. People saw what was going on and yet did nothing to help them out of their situations.

That somebody is always us.

It’s us.

The grandparents. The neighbors. The Sunday School teacher. The grocery store clerk. The aunts. The uncles. The co-worker.

Read Karly Sheehan. See how many times people within Sarah’s circle of friends and co-workers worried something was wrong, yet failed to speak out, failed to challenge Sarah, and to protect Karly.

See how many times educated people rationalized away the abuse.

Study that.

Then open your eyes to the world around you.

Do you think you could easily recognize child abuse? Yeah?

Take the quiz.

Which of the following should be reported as potential abuse?

– You are visiting  a neighbor where there is an infant and a two-year old. The mother is smoking pot. It’s noon. She smokes pot the entire hour you are there.

– You are camping with friends. Your friends offer their three-year old a swig from their wine glass. The child takes a big swig and obviously likes it. Your friends laugh and think it’s cute.

–  You are at Starbucks. You see a mother walk from the store to her vehicle, where she gathers a three-year old and an infant and carries them inside. You have no idea how long the mother has been inside the store as you have just arrived, but she has clearly left her kids in the car as she was inside. It’s a hot day.

-You are a teacher. You walk into a classroom where you find a young teen girl draped over a male teacher sitting at his desk. She is hugging him from behind, her cheek pressed up close to his neck  She does not stop the hugging even though you are in the room. You are embarrassed for him.

– You are the grandparent. Your daughter brings her child to your house where you are shocked to see the four-year old is rail thin and very pale. There are bruises on the child’s legs. The child’s hair is shockingly thinning. Your daughter says the child has just been under the weather.

– You are in a store shopping when you witness an adult yelling at a six-year old child to shut the fuck up. The child immediately stops crying.

–  You are at a friend’s house. They have seven-year old twin boys. The friend is cleaning a handgun. The twins are roughhousing in the living room. Your friend, who has had one beer too many, points the gun at the boys and tells them to stop it right now, or he’ll make them stop for good.

Which one would make you take action? What action might you take?

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of KARLY SHEEHAN: True Crime of Karly’s Law.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.



about 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing. Your words and your work have made a big difference already, and they will continue as Karly's Story lives on. Even if you are gone. Hoping Jesus returns first.


Pam Feagle

about 5 years ago

Well, Karen, it has to be every single instance that you mention. But it certainly makes me think - what WOULD I do? I hope I would take immediate action, but how many people would have felt that in hindsight. Thank you for making me aware.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 5 years ago

It can be difficult to know what to do because each of these can be so easily rationalized away.


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