What Will Happen to the Children

Children who are physically or sexually abused suffer massive mental trauma. Their past, however, does not seal their fate — as former victims like Oprah Winfrey, C. J. Walker, and Joseph Moderow can attest.

Twice in one week. A family in Lavonia, Georgia, (on the South Carolina-Georgia border) and one in Jackson, Alabama. Horrific stories of abuse and imprisonment of two families — one with four children, the other with eight.

Raymond Daniel Thurmond kept his wife and four children locked up in a filthy double-wide trailer for three years. The mother and children were never allowed outside and were so well-hidden that the neighbors were not even aware that Thurmond had a family.

Anthony Hopkins had a wife and eight children. He told curious people in his community that his suddenly absent wife had died in childbirth. Recently, the police found what they think is her body in the man’s freezer. His eldest daughter whom he raped for years, is the one who finally went to the police.

The media will pay attention to these stories for about a week, then TruTV and Nancy Grace will pick these stories up again when they go to trial. Then, they will vanish altogether. After we are satisfied that the bad guy has gone to jail (hopefully for good), we will flip on the game, or watch TMZ. We will lose interest.

But whatever becomes of those tortured children? It is hard to believe that a human being — especially a child who is just learning about the world and developing as a person — witnessing and experiencing such events will grow up to be a normal and well-adjusted adult. Are all twelve of these children doomed to become abusers, drug addicts, rapists or murderers?

Not necessarily so. We hear about serial killers and other social degenerates who had horrific childhoods. And then there are the Menendez brothers, who grew up privileged and in a happy family. (The jury at their final trial did not believe the defense’s excuse that Erik and Lyle had been abused by their father.) Or Jeffrey Dahmer, whose childhood was middle-class and ordinary.

If it were true that bad parenting alone spelled disaster for a person’s life, then we would be hearing about the depraved acts of jailbirds’ siblings, who shared similar upbringings.

Some killers have bad parents. Some had great parents. Not all well-reared children will do the right things in life, nor will all badly parented children end up harming others.

Take for example, Oprah Winfrey. Her traumatic childhood consisted of being raped by her cousin at nine, and later by her uncle and another family member. She was pregnant by the time she was fourteen.

Despite these events, which would haunt even the strongest of people, she has become the richest female entertainer in the world, with a media empire that would have been unthinkable by her abusers.

Even before the world had heard of Oprah Winfrey, Madame C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) had worked herself up from a poor and traumatic childhood into a black, female millionaire by the turn of the twentieth century, at a time when blacks had few rights and as a woman she could not even vote.

Born into a former slave family and first married at fourteen, Walker eventually manufactured and sold hair products for black women — which no one was successfully doing at the time. At an NAACP convention, she famously said, “I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. I was promoted from there to the washtub. Then I was promoted to the cook kitchen, and from there I promoted myself.”

Joseph R. Moderow, Senior Vice President, General Council, and Board Member (retired) of the United Parcel Service (UPS) is another fine example of overcoming childhood abuse and financial instability. Moderow developed polio as a baby and, though he recovered, his childhood was fraught with pain, culminating in his father remarking that Moderow was a “disappointing failure who would never amount to anything in life.”

Moderow’s father never spoke to him again. With this lack of even basic emotional support from his family, Moderow’s life could have taken a turn for the worse. But he chose otherwise, becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college and attaining a noteworthy career.

Liberals will have you believe that these are just “Horatio Alger stories,” mythical events out of ordinary reach. This is not so. Not only is every human being sentient and capable of making choices that will better their lives, but there are people, famous and not, who have done so.

The liberal answer of placing government in charge of bettering your life does not work. A handout is never a hand up.

Oprah was not helped by the government. Laws existed at the time that were blatantly against the rights of black women like Madame Walker. Nor was Joseph Moderow helped when he worked a series of low paying, blue-collar part-time jobs in order to become the first person in his family to graduate from college.

The Thurmond and Hopkins children should take comfort in one thing. Your past does not determine your future. Does it influence it? Perhaps. But your past does not have the final say.

“Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.” —Vanilla Sky

Tara Overzat is a University of Florida graduate who formerly taught in Beijing, China. She currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia where she is a paralegal and freelance writer.

7 comments from readers  

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As a recovering addict -- though never a victim of abuse, other than self -- I can relate to changing my life "one day at a time".

Your using their story as a political lever smacks of opportunism, however, and you lost sight of your original thesis of "what happens to them".

Perhaps a more subtle approach might be appropriate, using either irony or simply letting the reader know people like Oprah or Miss Breedlove made their own choices and used their own motivation to succeed, letting the reader think it out for one's self.
Your column is fine, except for singling out liberals for blame. You could as easily say "the conservative answer of placing government in charge of bettering your life does not work."

And is usually more personally invasive, and intolerant of personal lifestyle choices.
It's refreshing to see hope through the eyes of others. Excellent article!
Thank You for addressing this issue.

Emotional trauma is an item that is in almost all cases not addressed in this culture of ours. Memory is stored in the mind, but Effects of Trauma and severe emotional memory is stored all over one's nervous system, the entire body.

For most, "mind over matter" is not a tool that is employed, despite good intentions. Techniques now exist to "unhook" emotional memories linked to trauma in the body, allowing that the most brutal of injury or accident is but a memory, no longer linked to the body. The latest in this emerging science is called Emotional Freedom Technique. www.emofree.com/

EFT as it's called was developed by engineer turned salesman, Gary Craig, building on the discoveries of many others, with input from some of today's leading therapists.
Andrew S
0 points
Thanks for this inspiring piece. I particularly appreciate its balanced approach to the terrible experiences some children have. There is compassion in the author's words, and also confidence in the ability of traumatized individuals to lift themselves up.
Hits a lot of nails right on the head. Kudus to Tara. This article can be extrapolated to cover an awful lot of ground.

Keep up the good work Tara! And thanks.
Tara makes some very good points in the article and anyone wanting to draw inspiration from another success story who started with a traumatic childhood should read Gavin De Becker's "The gift of fear".

However, I really don't think the pop at Liberals was necessary or even relevant to the article, or have I missed something?
To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.