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I am ashamed to admit it. I knew a child was being abused. And I almost didn't report.

There are a lot of reasons people don't report child abuse. I had an entire list that was holding me back. Sadly, some of these excuses stemmed from my own experiences with abuse.

A Little Backstory

I, like so many others, was abused as a child. Statistics vary widely. Some say that as many as one in three children are abused. It doesn't matter if it's physical, emotional, or sexual. Child abuse is abuse and leaves a lifelong impact.

In my very early childhood, I was severely neglected. We're talking finding me in a closet with infected self-inflicted scratches due to one of the worst pinworm infestations the pediatrician had ever seen. I don't remember those years; I was very young. But I do remember the emotional abuse that came later.

Almost every therapist wanted to focus on the early childhood neglect, which is one of the reasons I didn't realize the extent of the abuse I suffered from then through my teens. It wasn't until I was hundreds of miles away and years old that I even realized that my childhood was anything but healthy.

I'm not going to go into details. To put it simply, I grew up with a severely narcissistic caretaker. I resonate with almost everything listed here. I've cut ties repeatedly in order to save my sanity, even as an adult. It's very hard to love an abuser.

But like I said, it was my experiences with abuse that made me fear reporting in the first place.

The Situation

Every day, I would hear screaming on the other side of my bedroom wall. My neighbor seemed to have severe anger management issues. She yelled at her dogs. She yelled at the television. But what was most frightening was how often she yelled at her four-year-old granddaughter.

I'm not talking about a quick shout. I'm not talking about occasional discipline. I'm talking about hearing a little girl sobbing as her caretaker screamed at her for hours on end because she couldn't get the answer right on her homework.

My neighbor was so loud, I could hear her actual words. It's not that the walls are that thin: I couldn't hear anything the granddaughter said. Only her sobs.

If she couldn't find a library book, she'd be screamed at. If she didn't think to shut the door fast enough, she'd be yelled at. It seemed that no matter what she did, there was a reason to be screamed at.

Oh, how this resonated with me. I know far too well what it's like when you can't do anything right. It doesn't matter how hard you try. No matter what you do, you're going to get in trouble. The moment you think you understand the rules, they change.

Hearing such a clear parallel to my own experiences brought on flashbacks. I was physically ill, waking up to this abuse. I knew this had to stop. Not just for the child, but for me as well. I know it sounds selfish, but living with PTSD attacks on a daily basis isn't fun.

Then, there would be statements like "This is why Grandma has to hit you sometimes." I would hear thumps and pray that the dogs had knocked something over.

Why I Didn't Report

She'd Know It's Me

Sure, CPS reports are confidential, but who else could be overhearing all of this? I knew that if I reported her, she would know it was me. And she wasn't my abuser, but I was still scared of her. Listening to all of this abuse left me in stark fear, even though she had no power over me.

Sorry, this isn't an excuse.

For starters, I'm an adult. No matter how much fear my neighbor instills in me, it's nothing compared to what she's doing to that child. She doesn't control my life. She doesn't hold any power over me. I can call the cops on her, if need be. I am not trapped in her household.

But the child is.

That child is going to have to deal with all of this, with no chance of escape. Even if the girl is aware that she's being abused, which from my experience, she might not, what is a four-year-old going to do to stop it?

You're the only one who can. And you're the only one who can actually do something if there is retaliation.

What If It Gets Worse?

Sadly, my first (and only) experience with someone pointing out that my mother was abusing me was seeing things suddenly get worse.

Many, if not most, abusers, don't see themselves as abusers. And it's a sad fact that they get kind of angry when accused. And they already have a punching bag.

It's the kid.

The last thing I wanted was to make this little girl's life even worse. I didn't want to see the abuse escalate.

But that's bullshit.

If everyone was afraid to report child abuse because the abuser might get worse, abusers would never be reported. If abusers who aren't even aware that they're abusers never get confronted with that information, how are they supposed to change?

Yes, there's a chance that things might get worse. But here's the truth: CPS investigates all reports of child abuse. If things get worse, make a second phone call. Let them know that things have escalated. If you think the child is in immediate danger, you'll hear sirens in a few seconds. They take this stuff seriously.

There's a good chance you're not the only one worrying about this kid. The more reports, the more information CPS has and the better they can see the situation. The more viewpoints, the more they can protect the child.

Things might get worse. But if they are going to get worse, they can't get better until someone makes the call. Call repeatedly. Encourage others to report as well. Let CPS know that the child needs to be removed from the home at this point.

Don't let a bad situation fester for fear of it getting worse.

It's Just Emotional Abuse

I told this to myself so many times and it makes me sick knowing that I let myself believe this was a valid excuse.

Emotional abuse is abuse.

Let me repeat that: EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS ABUSE.

Yes. It's hard to prove. Yes, CPS would likely have a hard time removing the child from the home because of emotional abuse.

That doesn't mean they can't do anything. That doesn't mean nothing will happen. If you see any evidence at all of any kind of child abuse, CPS will investigate. They will try to do the best for the child. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Again, if you don't report, nothing's going to happen.

I Had No Proof

I didn't have any doubts about whether or not abuse was going on (which is still not a reason not to report: when in doubt, report), but I didn't have any proof.

California is a two-party consent state for recording. This meant that while I had to listen (in my own home) to her abuse on a daily basis, I could not legally record her hurting this child as proof. Unfortunately, our right to privacy protects abusers in some cases. (There was a child who recorded their father beating them. Evidence was not admissible in court because the father didn't consent. Don't get me started on the fact that if it was sexual abuse, the child could have been prosecuted for creating child pornography.)

Heck, I didn't even know most of the details. I was pretty sure she was the child's grandmother, not mother. But I didn't know if she was the legal guardian or not. I couldn't say for sure how often the child was home. I didn't know the child's name or age. All I knew was their address and that there was a young child being abused.

All of this information helps CPS, but it's not necessary. All they need to know is that a child is being hurt and where to find that child. They'll ask you questions you may not be able to answer, but they understand that we don't always know everything.

I'm sure there are other reasons that a person might feel hesitant to file a report. If you know the person well, know that they're not ~evil, you might be worried about such an accusation. Remember: abusers aren't always the epitome of evil. They have redeeming qualities. They often don't know they're being abusive. Many of them, if they were aware, would feel incredible amounts of shame.

If you have ANY reservations about whether or not to report, push them aside. Make the report. It's true; there might be consequences. But the consequence of not reporting is far more serious.

I'm still struggling with the effects of an abusive childhood. Some days are easier than others, but not a day goes by where these experiences don't color my perception or influence my decisions.

I beg you: if you were like me, and your own experiences of abuse created a shroud of fear about reporting, please push those fears aside. There's a good chance that someone else's fear kept them from reaching out to you. If someone did reach out, and there were consequences, consider how things could be been different if they'd persisted.

My story has a good ending. I very rarely hear yelling at all these days. There are no more mysterious thumps. I wasn't confronted by my neighbor once.

I'm aware I was lucky. But in hindsight, I can now see that even if things hadn't turned out this well, if all my fears had come true, reporting would have been the right response. It just would have been more of a struggle.

There's no excuse, none, for not reporting child abuse. As an adult, you have the power to make change. In an abusive home, a child is being left without that power and these experiences will influence them for the rest of their life.

My neighbor's granddaughter no longer has that fearful reservation in her actions that I know all too well. That hesitation before speaking, moving, doing anything, lest it result in punishment. Just seeing her smile is reminder enough how important the decision to report was.

Chapter 2!

Mar. 9th, 2013 07:46 pm
ryanleeds: (Default)
Chapter 2 of Synchronicity is up!

You do have to have a (free) account to keep reading, but that also gives you the chance to +vote me if you like it. :)

Oh, and it'll give you the chance to shelve it, which means you'll be automatically updated when I post new chapters!
ryanleeds: (Default)
In this non-traditional cyberpunk romance, Lauren contracts an AI virus that causes machines she's interfaced with to gain sentience. As her job requires her to put down rogue AIs, she's left with a moral conundrum. But if she quits her job, will her friends-with-benefits and coworker Marie leave her? And what will happen if she admits that she actually loves Marie?

So, in order to help me keep working on Synchronicity, I submitted it to Jukepop Serials!

And the first chapter is live today!

So if you head over to this link over here, it'll be updating... pretty regularly.

And if you do like it, voting would be pretty awesome.
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1. Learn to balance work and writing. I need to actually be able to yanno, keep my job, even as I try to get to the point where I'm regularly working on stories.

2. Finish a story for Crossed Genre's February theme. (Which is awesome.)

3. Clean up Attack of the Space Bees from Outer Space enough to start subbing it.

4. Finish the unnamed dystopia, or at least name it.

Things I have already done in January:

1. Finish Attack of the Space Bees from Outer Space in draft.

2. Written a piece of flash fiction that isn't very good, but it exists.
ryanleeds: (Default)

So, I've been working really hard for the past couple of days on Attack of the Space Bees from Outer Space and I'm excited to say that it's finished in draft! There are some major things I need to fix in editing, but I kind of feel like I'll be able to do it. It's daunting because it's humor and I find balancing out jokes is kind of difficult. But this is a story I've been working on for nearly two years and I'm just glad to have it finished in draft.

I theoretically need to fix some pacing issues as well, but I kind of like them. Editing it down will probably fix those anyway.

I wanted to finish it under 4K because I feel like at its length, it's a little bit too long for a humorous story, but I'm pretty sure it will edit down below 5K by the time I'm done with it. Which is hopefully long enough to keep someone's attention, especially on a story that doesn't take itself seriously.

And... it's kind of a rush having worked on a story that's not super serious. I mean, I have a special place in my heart for 50s monster flicks and bad science fiction tropes. And I've managed to incorporate a ton of these into the story, while being completely self-aware about it. I think. We'll see.

But it's been a long time since I've finished anything, so I should feel good about that.

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I am writing this post from my not-overheating laptop!

I finally bought a fan for my laptop, now that I have a place to deliver it to! I am using way too many exclamation points! I blame my hyper-local apartment blogging!

However, when I got the screws off and opened up my laptop, my fan didn't fit. Apparently the guy at eBay sent me the wrong fan or claimed said fan would fit my laptop, but it wasn't the right one. No matter how I twisted or pushed, it wasn't going in there.

Now, I had promised myself some Dragon Age after I got a new fan because Kris got me it for $winterholiday and I would finally be able to run it. So I was hellbent on getting this fan to work. That, and my computer had been randomly overheating even more. And when I got pissed off that I couldn't find the screwdrivers (which I obviously later found -- they were in another bin) and I booted up my computer, it was being glitchy even though it didn't feel that hot.

(As writing this, I have been told not to play Tactical Sekt while San is sleeping, as it sounds like angry bees when it is quiet.)

So what did I do? I got a pair of scissors and started cutting off the plastic that was making the fan not fit. When I got to metal, I bent it out of the way. When that didn't work, I removed the metal frame entirely. I made that fan work because fuck if I wasn't going to play Dragon Age after I finished work.

At first this didn't work. My computer was like WTF ARE YOU DOING. That was before I removed the metal which was making it sit just quite not right. But it is working perfectly fine now! I have been playing music for hours and it still hasn't overheated! It's not hot at all! (I used to be able to listen to about one song before it shut down.)

This is very exciting!

The other exciting thing is that yes -- I had a place to deliver the fan to. I have an apartment! It is tiny and I am sharing the tiny with San, but it is a place to live. I am now allowed to stay up into the early hours of the morning to work, rather than getting it all done by 11 in a horrible place to work. I only have to go to Starbucks when I don't want to make my own coffee. Fuck, I have my own coffee pot. I CAN COOK MY OWN FOOD WITH MY OWN DELICIOUS CHINESE VEGETABLES. (99 Ranch is amazing.)

Today we were lazy and just got prefab food from 99 Ranch. Soy bean sprout salad, spiced turnips, and two-for-one-because-it-is-ten-o'clock-and-they-are-closing sushi. We also got buns (pork for San, green onion for me), sticky rice in banana leaves, shrimp dumplings and lots and lots of sauces and curry. (Which we needed badly.)

AND CORDY SHOULD BE COMING SOON. (I need to talk to Thief.)
ryanleeds: (Default)
So I just received one of the most insulting personal rejections I've ever seen. Not insulting to me, but insulting to my story.

I was told that I should have made one of the characters in Reformatted Soul male.

Granted, I did strip out the non-binary pronouns to make the story more palatable for the market, but seriously. What the fuck?
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I've been finding that when I have long train rides (like when I go to Pasadena), I can get a lot of writing done. Which surprises me. The train rides are only about an hour long, but both times that I've tried to write while waiting and on the train, I have written over 2k.

I wrote two chapters this week, so I made my goal. The second one wasn't quite 2,000 words, so my word total is only 3949 for this week. (Well, I've written a bit more since then, as I've done writing today.)

I don't know where my manuscript was at yesterday, but right now it's at 13,725. According to Scrivener, that's about 40 pages, which makes me feel like I have a nice chunk of a book already.

Writing on the train is a little dangerous, though. On both trains I took today, I only noticed my stop was coming up the stop before my stop because I was too focused. Whoops.
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Everyone was super amazing in helping me get the money to get Cordy out to LA. For those who don't know this story, check here. There are even pictures.

Unfortunately, there's been a slight snag.

I don't know when I'm going to be able to get a pet friendly apartment, and even when I do, I'm going to have to pay the pet deposit. Until then, I'm going to have to put her in low-cost boarding or find someone to take her temporarily. So, I have two things to ask for:

If anyone can spare even a small amount to help pay for boarding or her pet deposit, it would be greatly appreciated.

Or, if anyone in the LA or Iowa City area can help house my dog for the short amount of time I need to get her into the apartment, that would be even better.

Like I've said before, Princess Cordelia is my life. She's the reason I'm alive and the reason I keep going. I need my dog, and I don't want to let anything stop her from our reunion.

Oh, again, my paypal is yandoryn [at] gmail [dot] com

For the pet deposit I likely need somewhere between $250 and $500. For boarding, I don't know the cost, as I don't know how long she'll need to stay.
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Yesterday's goal was to knock out one of the chapters completely. Not surprisingly that didn't happen, considering I've had an itch for watching The West Wing lately and that's a lot of writing.

I did get 1,626 words done and almost finished the chapter, though. Or maybe I did finish the chapter and this one's just really short. Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Sadly, I did not make the milestone I was hoping to make yesterday, which was the 10k mark on my manuscript. I am still 250 words shy of that. If I don't make that mark today, I'm going to be very disappointed in myself.
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I've been having a hard time reaching my writing goals lately. Mostly it's just been issues figuring out where I need to cut and expand in The Clockwork Ghosts' outline. Every time I figure out what I need to do, things come pretty smoothly. I made my goal today, which was to write 2,000 words. I wrote two scenes in the next chapter I needed to write.

In related news, I have signed up for the Clarion West Write-a-thon. I plan on writing two chapters a week of at least 2,000 words. Obviously I may need to pad them later or combine them into one, but when I say a chapter, I mean a chapter as I currently have it outlined.

Snippets will be going into [community profile] holymachines. I will post here with updates every week when I'm doing my check-in and link back to my writing journal if I have new snippets. Currently, you can view snippets from chapters one and two.

Also, I've been listening to a lot of Colony 5, if that's not apparent. It's great science fiction synthpop. Well, not all of it's science fiction, but a good chunk of it is, hence the name Colony 5. If you're looking for something fun (but a little cavity enducing), you should check them out.
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So, as I promised -- Pride pictures. I didn't take a lot because my phone was dying.

and here they are! )

And that's all I managed to take. I didn't go to the parade because I stayed up WAY too late and needed to catch up on some sleep. Apparently Saturday was the more calm day of Pride, which makes me glad it was the day I went. I mean, I would have liked to see more people, but at the same time, I don't know if my anxiety would have let me.
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When I'm finished tonight, I should be about 10% done with The Clockwork Ghosts. It's been really fun to work on so far, but I'm not sure what the point of the dog is so far, except to make it a boy and his dog story. It really kind of makes me sad that the protag is male because who ever writes a girl and her dog?

I haven't gotten the desolate feeling of the setting down yet, but that's what revisions are for. I'd like to get to the point where I can introduce the female MC, but I don't think that's going to happen tonight. I merged a couple of chapters today to make it more readable, which seems to be working well. The flow is a little awkward, but again -- revisions.

I keep having flaily moments while writing this that I don't even know what I'd DO with a manuscript if I had one. I've been able to quell that some of that by telling myself that what you do with a manuscript is write it. And the fact that if I can actually finish this, I'll be able to write another novel more easily. Which will make going back to work on God Was Wearing Black a lot easier. I'd also like to sketch out the plot to Sparkle, but I don't think I want to work on it until I've finished this project.

Looking back at The Way You Whisper, I really want to figure out how to do the revisions on it. I love the story and the way that spirituality and relationships are portrayed in it. I love the fact that I've managed to write a scene with four characters talking at once. I don't love the rushed pacing at the end.

Tomorrow is Pride and I'm not sure if I'll be going. I have a ticket, so I may go for a bit and see if I can handle it. There will just be so many people and I have a lot of writing I'd like to get done on Saturday as I probably won't have a lot of time to write on Sunday with church and all.

I also need to transfer NINJA VERSUS PIRATE FEATURING ZOMBIES to my phone so that I can read it while I'm on the bus. It's not the greatest book from what I've read so far -- it thinks it's the most awesome book in the world, I think is part of the problem -- but it's been enjoyable.

A friend let me borrow a book that she got from the library, Luna. It's the story of a girl whose sister is in the process of dealing with her identity as a woman and going from open at night to going in public as a woman. It had a great way of pointing out the selfishness of embarrassment and wish that a loved one stay closeted for your own sake and had a realistic view of her sister dealing with that. I didn't like the fact that it harped on the Harry Benjamin Standards of care and some of the terms that Luna used to describe cisgender women and trans women, but I'm pretty sure the author is cisgendered and so may not know that much about the modern trans community.

It was nice reading something for once and it made me realize that I need to get a library card. In order to do that, I need to get more mail. (Anyone who wants to send me a letter is free to do so, but unfortunately it will have to be sent to my current legal name, I think, in order for me to prove residency. I will gladly privately share my email address with you.)

I never did recap my adventures on Disneyland. Needless to say it was a lot of fun and Space Mountain was an experience I'd like to repeat.
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Sketched out a YA sci-fi novel today that covers all of the restrictions of my challenge. It's pretty cute, about a boy and his dog, fixing things that adults have screwed up, like adults do. It's 22 chapters long, which means as long as I keep the chapters under 2000 words, it should come out to a decent size.

I'm having a little trouble starting the first chapter, but I was gifted a copy of Scrivener, so I will have an easier time working non-linearly if I need to. I'll focus on more of it tomorrow when I'm not running around the courthouse again. (Doing last step name change things until my hearing.)

Am thinking about doing some character development work with Loren. I need to figure out some things before I start doing tentative storyboarding for little scenes. The Angel Project has been thrumming in my head for a couple days now. I'm trying to read about writing a graphic novel so I can properly work on some things. It's really different than I'm used to.

I think I'm still going to write my velociraptors story even though it's thematically similar to a lot of my other writing. There are a few sticking points in it that make me really happy. Like the fact that the protag files her teeth. But most of my effort is going to be going into The Clockwork Ghosts.
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Does anyone have an suggestions of feeds I should be following?
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Almost 15, Elena Rodriguez lives on a resort planet with exotic animals from every era. She roams with the velociraptor packs during the day to escape from her abusive, drug addict parents, while her brother remains at home to take care of them. Her biggest problem is that at 15, the planet requires you to report to the Catering District in order to keep your citizenship. Not fit to work with humans anymore, she breaks loose and tries to live with the animals completely, only to find out that even there, she's not alone.
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Apparently I'm going to write a story that isn't about transhumanism or machine empathy with no character death. And it has to be sci fi.

...I forgot about the no apocalypses rule.


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Ryan Leeds

December 2013



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