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The estranged parents' forums finally found my site on estranged parents' forums, and the response has been... predictable? Depressing. Let's go with "depressing." I'll skip over the black-and-white thinking, the failure of reading comprehension,* and the weird entitlement to write their opinions directly on my site, and go straight to an incident that sums it all up.

On one page, I said:

There are other signs that the parents who stay aren't the same as the parents who leave, or who never come to the group. For example, one member's adopted younger son had reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and tried to kill his mother when he was 14. On its own, that's not a sign that the mother was abusive. RAD does terrible damage to children, and we're still struggling to find a therapy that works for the worst cases.

But the school system twice notified CPS that they suspected the mother was abusing the son. And while disciplining her son in public, the mother was repeatedly interrupted by strangers who tried to stop her, then called CPS. CPS decided the charges were founded and "threw the book at" her. So when she disciplined her older son at home and the neighbors called the police, she was at risk of being sent to jail by CPS. The mother described herself as "a 'victim' of the Parent Police" who had "lost [her] freedom to parent."

(She also had a little dog that loved her right up until the day it bit her, when she threw it out of the house and told it not to return for a week. Two weeks later someone found the dog and called her, and her father brought it back.)



That last comment was a story she related off-hand in a thread about something else entirely. No one said anything about it at the time.

When the mother read my description of her, she repeated the story with more details, called my focus on it "bizarre," and said, "And I have to laugh at why the author of the post even thought a 40-yr old story about me and my dog is relevant?? The fact that I tossed the dog out the front door 20 years before I adopted my first child makes me a horrible person?"

Again, no one said anything.

When I wrote the piece I quoted above, I didn't spell out the significance of the story. Details make a stronger impact when you let readers come to their own conclusions. It's the slow burn, the creeping chill when you realize that this woman thought nothing of committing animal abuse. Not the hot, angry type of animal abuse, either, unpremeditated lashouts and screaming fits, but the cold, complacent type, the kind of abuse that comes from a lack of empathy so complete that it doesn't occur to the person that the dog can't understand why it's being thrown out. That it can't understand instructions to return in a week. That forcing an animal out of its home isn't acceptable punishment for biting, and that living on the streets for a week could easily kill it. The cherry on top: She didn't bother looking for it when the week was up, and she wasn't even the one to go get it when a good Samaritan called to tell her the dog was alive.

I volunteer for an animal rescue organization. We rescue dogs like this woman's--and we don't give them back. When a prospective owner tells us a story like this one, we take down their information and put them on our blacklist, then we call all the other organizations in the area and put her on their blacklists, too. Because a woman who can breezily tell a story like this and see nothing wrong with it, even 40 years later, isn't fit to own a dog.

This woman adopted two children. Christ. CHRIST.

No one said anything. No one, in either thread where she told her story, said a thing. A community filled with self-professed animal lovers. Not a one of them ever questioned whether she might, possibly, have committed animal abuse. Or maybe just overreacted a little. No one cared. She was in pain, so their attention was on her. Not even a reflexive flicker of empathy for her victims. She couldn't have victims. She was in pain, she was hurting, she was one of us.

(She goes to a re-adoption support group for help with her children.)

Christ. God in Heaven, prove You exist. Do something, because I can't.


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* Among other things, several of them can't tell when I'm quoting someone else. I'm not Ella's owner; I'm not Ginnie; and I don't have a mother-in-law.

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