Abused husbands and emancipated foster kids

Readers respond to "A World of Hurt" and "Forever Young."

By Salon Staff
Published April 5, 2002 8:00PM (EST)

Read "A world of hurt" by Earl R. Mies.

Thank you, thank you for printing Earl Mies' article on abuse. I have in my short life sadly known many victims of abuse. Half the abusers have been male and half female. When I worked with social workers who had dealt for years with foster care systems, I discovered my experience was not weird but accurate. Too often when I have tried to talk about some of what I have seen, women have dismissed me as "wrong" or even attacked me -- for simply having had experiences that do not "fit" someone's invented picture of a situation.

Anyone who genuinely cares about stopping domestic violence, not merely promoting a particular political stance, needs to listen to people like Mies as well as people like Margaret Finnegan, who wrote so poignantly on being the victim of her father's abuse.

Thank you for bringing honesty, however painful, to a difficult discussion.

-- K. Wiley

Thank you for publishing Earl Mies' poignant story about his long ordeal with an abusive, alcoholic wife. Despite his pain, anger and fear for his daughter's safety, he handled the situation with commendable dignity and compassion. Through all the physical and emotional abuse he endured as a result of his wife's addiction, he managed to maintain control and look after his daughter. Unfortunately, it's rare that the other side of domestic violence gets told. Mr. Mies has done a public service in telling his story, and Salon has set a good example for other publications.

-- Chris Heard

What happened to Mr. Mies' daughter? Does he have full custody now? What about his former wife -- is she sober again, or drinking?

This was a very poignant article; and I can't let it go until I know what happened with his daughter!

-- Harper Wood

What an important article about an underreported phenomenon! I so appreciate Earl's ability to report his true hurt and angry feelings and his eventual healing over time. Thank you for coming out as a male survivor of domestic violence and showing the devastating results of alcohol abuse.

-- Sharon Bettis

My experience with the trauma caused by living, or growing up, in an alcoholic home is that it takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort to root out all of the rage and anger that surface, cued by any past triggers that foreshadowed, or immediately indicated, the oncoming assault and ensuing trauma.

I was very nearly killed by my ex-wife on two occasions prior to the end of our relationship. That end came at great personal and financial expense, but it has been worth every single penny.

As an alcoholic in recovery for over a decade, I, too, have my issues with practicing addicts who can always numb themselves to the consequences of their actions.

But I also need to remember that just because a human being can respond seemingly intelligently to my verbal and nonverbal cues does not mean that I am interacting with a well person.

I have to take time to probe and explore the depth of the person in front of me, and the person who I know myself to be, before I can assess at what level of interaction I can trust any individual.

Sadly, a person doesn't have to be alcoholic or an addict to be a waste of my precious time on this Earth -- they can be chemically sober and yet completely pathological, too.

-- Greg Mucha


Read "Forever Young" by Nell Bernstein.

Ten years ago I turned 18 and it was time to leave my foster home. I had been in the system in one capacity or another since I was 11 years old and now my time was up. It was a terrible, scary time where my options were limited and the threats of a homeless shelter were made very real to me.

I was one of the lucky ones. I had a friend whose family offered to take me in when I had nowhere to go and because of that break I am the successful adult I am today. Today I am an adult who is doing my part to make sure that this does not happen to another foster kid. I've worked with a number of professionals and there is no doubt in my mind that they want to see these young adults succeed, but they are looking at the situation from the viewpoint of an emotionally healthy adult, not a stunted child.

Education and independent living skills were certainly emphasized when I was a teenager. I went to the special classes offered to foster children and I went to high school like all the normal kids, but I was not a normal kid. Foster kids are not just in the system because it seems like a nice alternative to living with the biological family. They are in care because their lives were so traumatized and threatened that staying at home was not an option. Balancing a checkbook and calculating pi seem trivial compared to the bigger issues of why your parents betrayed you so fundamentally.

It is not a wonder to me that Ms. Throneberry remained a teenager throughout her 20s, for that is what she was. Her teen years were suspended until she could fight her demons. Emotionally, she picked up where her age left off and at 30 she was indeed ready to enter adulthood. Unfortunately, there is no cost-effective way to handle cases like this one. And public sympathy will never be on their side.

-- Heather Ward

Nell Bernstein's article regarding foster kids who don't w ant to grow up begins with the story of Treva Throneberry, a Texas native who has traveled the country under various names, claming to be 16, attending high school and living with family after family who open their home to her. However, there are two major flaws in her using Treva as the poster child for foster care:

1) Treva did not go into foster care until age 16. She grew up, in fact, with her parents and genetic siblings. Only after she accused her father of rape (though it was really her uncle who molested her) when she was 16 did the state intervene.

2) Treva went from state to state but rarely if ever worked through state agencies (i.e., foster care). Mostly she joined churches and religious organizations that found families for her. Treva's story is more about abuse, its psychological effects and the denial of that abuse, not foster care. It was abuse, not the system, that caused her to believe she was perenially 18. Bernstein, do your homework!

-- Denise Goluboff

If the Christian right refuses to accede to gay adoptions, perhaps they would rather these foster kids be placed in an orphanage where they'll get some of the Catholic priesthood's TLC.

-- Steven Stone


Salon Staff

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