Advocacy, Poetry, Toward better care

what we see will be undone

On Friday, April 13, 2017, I found stories of abuse everywhere I turned.

In the morning, for example, an inbox update took me to a New York Times story headlined: “Sexual Abuse at Choate Went on for Decades, School Acknowledges,” in which it was reported that “at least 12 former teachers had sexually molested — and, in at least one case, raped — students in a pattern of abuse dating to the 1960s.”

The article expanded: “It is the latest in a string of prestigious private academies that have faced accusations of sexual abuse by faculty members, including St. George’s School, in Rhode Island, and Horace Mann and Poly Prep in New York City.”

In the evening, CBC As It Happens host Carol Off interviewed United Nations Code Blue Campaign co-director Paula Donovan on the abuse of children by UN peacekeepers in Africa and Haiti. Donovan said “there were two hundred and fifty allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by the peacekeepers just in the Central African Republic.” That was during 2015 and 2106 alone. The peacekeepers in question, she said, leveraged their power to abuse their victims.

These things happened, and still happen, because victims are not believed, witnesses remain silent or are forced into silence, whistleblowers are vilified and punished for speaking out, abuse is swept under the rug, and organizations, institutions, and professional bodies protect themselves and their own.

I believe the same kind of thing happens with respect to the infirm and elderly, particularly those with dementia, in long term care. Their neglect and abuse remains largely unseen and unreported in facilities such as nursing homes around the world. I also believe that when lies are told, the truth unfolds.

Also on Friday, April 13, I became aware of the story of Carolyn Strom, a Saskatchewan nurse who, in 2015, had voiced her opinion regarding what she considered substandard long-term and palliative care received by her grandparents. As a result, she was convicted of “professional misconduct” and fined $26,000 by the regulatory body of professional nursing in Saskatchewan. I immediately donated to the GoFundMe campaign to pay the fine so she can continue to practice nursing.

An interesting and provocative segment on Strom’s case aired on CBC’s The Current on April 17, 2017; it includes the original FB post and additional quotes and information.

Saddened and galvanized by my own experience as well as by these and many other stories of the same ilk, I wrote the poem below.

what we see will be undone

Dedicated to those all those young and old who experience abuse and all those who speak out on their behalf.

what we see will be undone

©2017 punkie  

tinker, tailor, soldier, spy
kissed the kids and made them cry

some in homes, some at war
when it’s dark, behind closed doors

teachers, coaches, doctors, nurses,
for perks, or pleasure, or fatter purses

claim to care with public faces
but hurt and harm and leave scant traces

the young and old have trusting hearts,
want peaceful times, and fresh new starts

they’re open wide to suggestion
innocence asks few questions

“shhhhh, don’t tell, it’ll be our secret,”
perps play on guilt, and tender meekness

imprisoned elders, imbued with fear,
are sickly, sweetly called “my dear”

believing lies, they follow orders
do the bidding of their warders

then end up beaten with no voice
muted, forgotten, devoid of choice

sharp witnesses few and far between
chart what goes on behind the scenes

they blow whistles loud and clear
which deafened systems fail to hear

the abuse enabled continues on
of lesser ones from dusk ’til dawn

broken children, neglected seniors
die inside of frail demeanours

from power corrupted absolutely
by those who use it so astutely

but deceit and evil once concealed
can be stopped with truth revealed

so break the silence, take a stand
repudiate abusive hands

what we see will be undone
if and when we speak as one


©2017 Susan Macaulay. I invite you to share my poetry widely, but please do not reblog or copy and paste my poems into other social media without my permission. Thank you.

like one flew over the cuckoo’s nest

10 reasons why neglect and abuse of elders with dementia may be the norm rather than the exception in long-term care facilities

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