A Bruised Voice This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

June 3, 2010
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I will never forget his face the day after it happened. His left eyelid, half closed, was a deep shade of purple, which expanded to encircle the entirety of his eye. Streaks of red ran across his face and disappeared into the stained purple. The colors clashed with the gaunt, sallow pigment of his skin. Another bruise, which covered his entire right cheek was almost heart shaped, making it all the more haunting to look at. Like the one covering his eye, it took on the shade of gloomy plum splashed with burgundy, but this one had already begun to turn a sickly yellow-green around the edges.

“Jordan, what happened?” I asked him.

“Umm, I fell.” He paused. “That’s what Dada told me to say,” he said as his lip quivered and tears formed behind his eyes.

I remember the way Jordan would react when he saw “Dada” coming at the end of the day. As soon as the chain-linked gate opened and the muscular, tattoo-covered form of his father entered the playground, Jordan would sprint to the farthest end of the park and hide under the slide. His dad would strut through the brown woodchips, past the swings, and make his way to where the teachers stood.

“How was Jordan today?” he always asked in the same dispassionate voice.
“Today was a hard day,” they began each time. Teachers would recount Jordan’s violent actions and countless timeouts of the day, and Jordan’s father would resume his swagger through the playground while he went to find his son. Jordan’s whimpering always gave him away, and his dad would tow him out from behind the slide. “You hit Franco today?” or “You landed yourself in timeout again?” he’d bellow, depending on Jordan’s deeds throughout the day.

Tears would begin to spill over the edges of Jordan’s large brown eyes. On the best days, a simple threat would follow. “Just wait till we get home! I’m gonna pound the shit outta you!”

“No! No!” Jordan would sob. Every day, my heart ached for the little boy being hauled across the playground toward his car. I wanted to scoop him up and hug him and promise him that everything would be alright. But I knew it wouldn’t be.

Every day was the same. The burly figure of a man covered in inked, fire-breathing dragons and rusty weapons always brought dreaded fear to the playground. But some days were worse than others. When the muscular father figure was especially fed up with his son’s actions, he would march over to the slide, drag his small son across the woodchips, and slap him remorselessly across the face with his hardened bronze hand. “That’ll teach you not to hit your friends,” he’d shout.

Didn’t his father have any idea of the effect he was having on his child? Every day, Jordan spent hours sobbing in timeout, overwhelmed by emotions he didn’t know how to express appropriately. Violence was all he knew. He hit his peers, kicked teachers trying to help him, and even bit his own arms when frustration overcame him. He had no friends; all the other kids were afraid of him. He never smiled, and laughter was a foreign element to him. His father had taken any chance of happiness Jordan ever had and replaced it with overpowering misery.

Why didn’t he understand that his actions caused isolation and self-destructive behaviors that would shape the rest of Jordan’s life? Why didn’t he realize that victims often become abusers themselves and that he had started a vicious cycle? Why didn’t he care that he was more than likely creating a life of violence, drugs, and alcohol for his only son?

Watching a boy I had come to love be hurt repeatedly was heart wrenching. As a summer teacher, I did everything I could to intervene, but the word of a sixteen year old doesn’t always go very far. I once lingered after work to profess my concerns to the head teacher. She told me she’d “take care of it,” but no action was ever taken. I later brought the matter to the principal, but the summer ended, and I had to return to Vermont before I witnessed any change.
I was forced to watch as the life of a four year old boy deteriorated before my eyes. If Jordan remains in his current environment, he will be scarred for years, probably for the rest of his life. He will always be the little boy with no friends and bruises all over his body. He’ll be the one who spends most of his day in timeout, who is kicked out of class for talking back to his teacher or throwing chairs at his peers. He will be the boy smoking cigarettes on street corners to try and rid the hangover left from the previous night. And then he’ll be a man – a man who beats his children and leaves them covered in bruises and fear the way he once was.
It breaks my heart to picture him this way, and once he’s become that man, it’s too late. Society will no longer think of him as “that poor little boy.” He will be the man everyone hates, and the vicious cycle will begin all over again. We need to be the voice that speaks up for the thousands of children being abused; they don’t have the words to do it themselves.

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krazykathleen said...
Jun. 7, 2010 at 9:23 am
Wow. This is really, really sad. I almost had to stop reading it. Hopefully someone will help this boy and direct him to the right path. He should be taken away from his father. How awful.
bridgetteak/LPpark replied...
Dec. 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm
i know!!!! i started crying and sobing!!!!!!! :(
jbjustfine replied...
Dec. 30, 2010 at 7:07 pm
same for me!! Had watter in my eyes when I started reading it!!!
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