Aurore Gagnon was just 11 years old when she died of 52 wounds in 1920. She did not die in a war, nor did she die because of an accident. She died of exhaustion and blood poisoning after having been repeatedly beaten with a rusty iron and an axe handle, tortured with hot pokers, hidden in the dark for months, left without food or medical care.
The people who killed her were her own father and stepmother, who had already buried two other children in ‘mysterious and dubious circumstances’. They never repented their crimes, even though both of them were sentenced to prison after Aurore’s death. In fact, a letter from husband to wife was intercepted, sent while they were both in their respective prisons, where he told her that everything was all right, that everyone makes mistakes and that Aurore had been a difficult child, anyway.
It is pathetically ridiculous and hopelessly sad – the way that most chronic abusers and bullies never see themselves as such. They twist and turn reality, trying to justify their need for violence, claiming to be themselves the misunderstood victims and, in the case of familiars, saying that they acted like this out of love, as the Gagnon parents did.
There is no excuse for child abuse. None whatsoever.
Many wrongly believe that the term ‘abuse’ solely describes physical violence, however that is far from being true. Abuse can be psychological and emotional, as well as physical and in fact, sometimes chronic and repeated psychological abuse is much more scarring and permanent than anything physical could ever be.
Children who are frequently shoved back ‘in their place’, told to be seen and not heard, curbed, restrained and subjugated at every turn, often end up growing into repressed and stifled individuals with low self-esteem. Some parents, maybe even unconsciously, manipulate their kids by showing them that they are needy and depend on them, creating imaginary or fictional ailments to control their children through feelings of guilt. This too is abuse.
Abusing someone also means exploiting them or using their discomfort and unhappiness for one’s own gratification. Sociopaths, for example, are known to present a ‘normal’ face to society, while venting their frustrated anger and irrational behaviour elsewhere, usually in the home. In Luc Doc’s 2005 Canadian drama Aurore, which portrays the life and death of Aurore Gagnon, her parents are portrayed as charming and friendly people, whose neighbours, though suspicious, did not want to publicly denounce them of violence and abuse, as they seemed so amiable and charming with everyone. Even the priest, in the film, was taken in by the stepmother’s genial nature and chumminess.
Another common misconception is that ‘child abuse’ is a term pertaining solely to children, that is young underage children. Many parents, having started bullying their children from childhood, never actually stop. They continue to manipulate, mould and harry their children even when they have grown into adults. Some mothers, for example, make it extra hard for their sons or daughters to get married, instilling in them the idea that they are ‘abandoning’ their parents by doing so. Others literally continue the physical abuse, as well, and the child, now a grown man or woman, continues to take it, being so mentally and emotionally repressed and stunted, as to not be able to complain, rebel or take things into their own hands, much less tell someone else about it or ask for help.
That is the worst thing about abuse, which can be blatantly seen in the movie Aurore, most victims are so conditioned by their abusers, so afraid of incurring their wrath and even more violence, that they never tell anyone the truth about what is happening, often being labelled as liars if they even try.
There are no excuses for child abuse, in fact there is no excuse for any kind of abuse whatsoever. It is more a case of the abuser being a psychological wreck and needing to vent his or her internal turmoil on someone else, thereby creating yet another psychological wreck like himself/herself. Not a clinically correct deduction on my part, but still, I think, one which sums up most cases.
Most abusers, like Aurore’s parents, continue to say that they were justified in acting as they did and that they tried to correct their child out of love. I am sure Aurore herself, had she lived, would have had a very different opinion.