When I first moved out of my parents' home 30 years ago, I moved to an apartment of my own on the first floor of a residence at the intersection of Penn and Overington Streets in the Frankford section of Philadelphia.
A husband, a wife, and a little girl, about six years of age, lived in the apartment above. Every few nights it was the same routine. The husband would scream at and hit the wife, and then he would go to work. After the husband's departure for work, the wife would then engage in pecking-order abuse, screaming at and hitting the little girl.
I heard the slapping through the floor.
The little girl would show up with black eyes and black and blue marks. When the wife screamed at the little girl, she screamed like a banshee. It was unearthly, in its quality. I could believe that the screaming did more damage to the little girl's personality than the slapping and punching.
Back then, I was stupid. I believed in minding my own business. It did not even occur to me to be afraid of retribution if I called the authorities. I just wasn't interested in calling the authorities.
In the course of the events described in the previous article on child abuse, it occurred to me, later, that when the wife, Trang, agreed in advance to Thanh's use of a fiberglass rod to whip their daughter, it was pecking-order abuse. It was worse than what I used to hear coming from the apartment above my head on Penn Street. This time, it didn't just happen for no reason at all. The little girl was whipped with a fiberglass rod for being good !!!
It also had some bad, evil structure to it, in another way.
Once Trang called from her cell phone for help. We ran over to the house, and found her on the floor, curled-up in the fetal position, wild-eyed, shaking, shaking, shaking. Thanh was walking back and forth in the hall, like a robot, head tilted to one side, smiling oddly, eyes open but not seeing. To this day I don't think that he understood that I was there. I picked Trang up, carried her out, and handed her over to my wife, to be brought to our house, where she and their daughter stayed for about a week.
When Trang recovered, she told me how Thanh had grabbed her by her hair and held her down in front of the bedroom mirror and screamed at her, for 5 or 6 hours, total, "until I smiled like a good Vietnamese wife should smile."
Last year, after their separation, Thanh had visitation with their daughter, one day, over at his sister's house.
I went over to the house to discuss something with the sister, unaware that Thanh and Trang's daughter was there. Outside the front door, I heard moaning. I thought, "The sister is punishing her child." I knocked with my "shave-and-a-haircut" knock. Inside the moaning voice said, "Come in, Mr. Peter." I thought, "WHAT! IT'S THANH'S DAUGHTER!" I went in, and there she was, all alone in the house, kneeling straight-up-and-down on the wood floor, crying from the pain of kneeling a long time on wood. I said, "What are you doing??? This is crazy!!!"
She answered, through her tears, "Mr. Peter, my dad says that I can't get up off this wood floor to stop the pain until I start smiling like a good Vietnamese daughter should! If I get caught getting up before I am smiling in front of my dad, my aunt or my grandmom, I will be punished even worse!"
I thought, "He is doing the same thing, now, to his daughter!"
But it wasn't just the dad, Thanh, who engaged in the abuse. Once, when I called the daughter or she called me -- I forget which -- last year, after her mother's separation and divorce, I heard a very, very odd sound in the background, in her house.
I thought, "What the Helll???..." So, I said to the little girl, "What is that strange sound I hear on your end???"
The little girl answered happily, "Oh, it's okay, Mr. Peter. My mom does that all of the time. That's what my mom sounds like as she is screaming, screaming, screaming at me. She is careful to never let you hear that screaming. She just doesn't know that I am on the phone, right now, so you get to hear it!"
Just then, I remembered the unearthly screaming of the mother, screaming, screaming, screaming at her little daughter, who lived in the apartment above me, 3 decades ago.
It was the same.
Parents, stop destroying your little ones.
Just love them!