Title: Silenced for Life
Date: 21-Apr-2012

Toby was only 13 months old when he was passed on to foster care. Why was he at foster care? Did his parents died in a car accident? Were they too poor to raise him? Or was he taken away from his natural parents for a reason?

His story is a sad one.

Toby had a good looking but jobless father. His mother worked hard to support the family and was often tired. Worse, she was an abused and battered wife. When Toby was born, he was not spared. His father, who stayed home to care for him would beat him often and even burned him with lighted cigarettes and a heated iron. Can you imagine a helpless baby being abused like that? When Toby was 9 months old, his mother finally gained the courage to write to an agony aunt column in the local newspaper to ask for some advice. She was desperate. Yet, it wasn’t a cry for help. It was more of an impulsive slip of her messed up head that made her do it.

Toby was blessed. The newspaper picked up on it and worked hard to trace the mother. When she was eventually found, she initially did not want to admit to anything but when pressed further, she revealed that her son was the victim of abuse. Unfortunately in Malaysia, our laws do not allow children to be taken away from their parents unless with parental consent and Toby’s mother refused to agree that Toby should be removed from his father’s care with immediate effect. After much coaxing, counseling and persistent hard work by the authorities, Toby’s mother agreed to sign the forms for Toby to go into foster care. The authorities are still encouraging Toby’s mother to divorce her husband but to date, she has not done so.

What the foster care people found was that Toby was a toddler who did not cry. When he accidentally tripped and fell once and hurt himself, his natural instinct was to cry but instead, Toby cried in pain for two seconds then quickly stopped to look around. He did not continue crying but had the controlled look of pain on his face instead. At only 13 months, Toby had already learnt that if he cried, he would be hit. So he never cried. Can you imagine a 13 month old who does not cry? At that age when speech is not yet developed, a toddler or baby can only communicate by crying! Yet Toby knew he wasn’t allowed to cry.

It took months of work coaching Toby to start behaving normally by showering him with a lot of love before he would even look at a person in the face, not even their eyes. Toby is on the road to recovery hopefully, but one begs to question, what could we have done to prevent Toby from going through what he did?

What if Toby never cried again? Or if he never talked….

In this particular scenario, Toby was a baby and could hardly tell anyone that he was suffering but situations like this happen every day to many people, especially women and children. Is your child trying to tell you something when she says she doesn’t like going to her babysitter’s house? Is there a reason why your son does not like Uncle Martin? Many a time, we adults brush aside our children’s voice to what they are saying. We should not treat them as unimportant little people because they too have a voice that needs to be heard. By missing an important message, a child could potentially be damaged for life.

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