real life

"I can't read stories about crimes against children."

I don’t know what it is in me, but I can barely stomach stories about children who are deeply and deliberately harmed.

Day after day after day, there are reports of children who are abused, neglected, hurt, deeply wounded spiritually and physically. I’m not sure if there have been more of them in recent weeks, or if I’ve simply become more aware of them.

I can barely stomach stories about children who are deeply and deliberately harmed.

A 13-year-old girl whose father allegedly, and I can hardly write the words, orchestrated an eight man pedophile ring who between them are now facing over charges for over 500 offences committed against her, as reported by our friends at Debrief Daily.

Parents who let their children starve to death while they played video games, Australian actress Maggie Kirkpatrick is facing child sex charges, the remains of a tiny girl and her quilt found in a suitcase abandoned on the side of the road, all stories reported on by our sister publication, Mamamia.

These are the stories I can't read, can't even click on the. I quickly scroll past the headlines as they appear in my facebook feed.

I know that they are too much for me, that I will struggle to contain the discomfort and distress that will bubble close to the surface.

I wonder if the child in question felt fear? Did she feel sad? Was he alone?

When I do read them, my response is visceral. My gut churns and my body clenches up with the stress. I wonder if the child in question felt fear? Did she feel sad? Was he alone? Did anyone know what was happening? Did someone comfort her? Did he know that someone in the world loved him? I cry a tear or two. Images of my children flash before me.

They are not my children. But I think perhaps I realise that they are children just like mine. They are no different. They have come into the world, little bundles of potential, eager to drink in everything the world has to offer them. They too could be writers, or plumbers, or lawyers. They could grow and travel the world. They could find love, experience the joy of a partnership. They might even have their own children.

I suppose when I think about those children, I see their potential, and I realise that in suffering the harm that has been inflicted on them, those children have been robbed.

They have been robbed of the chance to learn slowly and appropriately about the world and about the power of human relationships, and in some cases, they have been robbed of their lives.

The maternal instinct I feel yearns to gather these children into my arms, to protect them from the evil that they have seen and experienced.

I've asked myself if I'm weak, and if I need to get it together. I've wondered if I should be made of sterner stuff. Do I need to know their stories?

My own emotional response to their stories leaves me feeling as though I have failed them. Another adult in a string of adults who have failed them over and over again.

In our common humanity, these are all our children. Children who deserve our love and respect, our attention and our grief.

How do you feel when you read these stories?

If this has raised any issues for you or if you need support please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au.