Since before the human race even began to analyze the habits of living organisms, there has always been the instinct of good and bad, right and wrong, and the concept that every living creature has a bit of both. One of the most morbid criminal acts that is instilled in some of the worse humans is sexually abusing children. While this act cannot be justified by any depth of comprehension, it can be studied, and in some cases, put to an end. In the United States alone, 3.2 out of 1000 children are reportedly sexually molested. Considering the thousands of millions of American children, that isn’t as remote as it sounds. The physical and emotional effects of child abuse, examined in "Child ABuse: Pediatrics" by Dr. Giardino, are displayed through the Indian child, Turtle, in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, "The Bean Trees".
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According to Dr. Angelo P. Giardino, Vice President at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, there are two main groups of condition an abused child undergoes: physical damage, and emotional damage. Irritation, bleeding, bruising and any abnormal discharge are signs of external and internal damage, particularly bleeding. To avoid long-term damage, it is necessary to identify the source of blood or discharge immediately. Emotional damage is a far more typical condition used by others to identify a victim of sexual abuse. Common signs of abuse are depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). "While no universal short term or long-time impact of sexual abuse has been identified, PTSD and depression are the disorders most commonly associated with sexual abuse."(Giardino 3).
Both examples of emotional and physical effects on an abused child are clearly provided in Kingsolver’s "The Bean Trees" with one of the main characters, Turtle. Early on in the book, Turtle is taken into the care of Taylor Greer, the narrator. Taylor soon discovers that Trutle has been sexually abused from "bruises and worse" (Kingsolver 31). The novel goes on to describe Turtle’s emotional wounds through her slow development to talk. For a two or three year old, silence is a legitimate PTSD symptom. When Taylor eventually takes Turtle to see the doctor to gain a clearer picture of the damage that’s been done, X-Rays expose healed fractures and internal tears all over the young child’s body. The doctor also explains the concept of "failure to thrive"(Kingsolver 166) in which a body, when heavily traumatized at a young age, fails to grow and thus eventually stops working. While turtle does not have this part of sexual abuse aftermath, failure to thrive is a serious danger for most pre-toddler or toddler abuse victims.
Through Dr. Giardino’s educational pediatrics article, and Kingsolver’s example of real life, the effects on the body and mind of a sexual abuse victim have been thoroughly examined. For myself, the concept of sexual abuse towards young children is one of the most morbid human tendencies is practice today, with devastating statistics. To break the mind, as well as the body; hit two birds with one stone, as the fairly disturbing proverb goes; seems to be a power that the human race should not be allowed to wield.
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