Founder and CEO of ASCDEM
Hello, my name is “Juan”. I am 44 years old, I was born and raised in the country of Mexico. Due to the nature of my mission, I must protect myself and my family, which is why I can only be referred to by a fictitious first name. It is my hope that by sharing my personal life story with you that you understand more about the perils children face every day in Mexico and why my mission is of utmost importance to me.
At the age of 15, I witnessed an event that changed my life forever. I started working in a mechanical workshop. In front of the workshop there were rooms for rent for low-income people. In the first room lived a woman approximately 24 years old and her daughter a little girl between 3 and 4 years old. The woman washed other people’s clothing to earn a living. Every morning around 7am at first the voice of the little girl was heard; a sweet-talking child calling her mother “mommy.” Likewise, the voice of her mother could be heard, as it began the day without a drop of love and with each minute her tone became more and more exasperated until the hysterical screams of the woman attacking and beating the little girl. The screaming and cries of the little girl were clearly perceived as she did not understand why her mother treated her that way. At approximately 10 in the morning, the woman would go out to buy something at the little store on the corner with the girl by the hand. The girl wore a smile on her face like someone who has an earthly paradise in her life. Those were the only times the girl had peace.
On one occasion the girl’s father came to the room. He was a football fan and wore sport clothes and soccer shoes along with gold chains and rings. He reclined on a rock that was next to the door of the entrance of the room and the girl’s mother came out with her best clothes. The girl was well bathed and dressed to convey they were a happy and perfect family. She knelt at his feet and looked at him as if he were her god and she was his servant. They took the girl by the hand and walked away—the mother with a smile from side to side and the man with a forgiving face. But when they returned and the man left, the screams and hits from the mother and the heartbreaking unstoppable cries of the girl returned. I asked my boss and my co-workers why no one did anything. They replied there was nothing to do but remain aside, respecting the mother’s right over the child. I worked there only two months before I entered the school, but that short time left a lasting impression on me. Whenever I passed by, I remembered the little girl whom no one wanted to help and whom I couldn’t help either.
Five years passed and, by chance, I went to the corner store where they used to take the girl. The shopkeeper recognized me and I stayed talking with him for a while. At some point, a girl entered and seemed to have some kind of illness because she could not move well, her arms and legs were stiff and her face was contracted and deformed. In addition, she had a very dirty appearance along with a characteristic that caught my attention—she had a look that denoted terror and paranoia. When she left, I asked the shopkeeper who she was and he asked me if I remembered the girl who was beaten every day. My heart sank! THAT WAS HER !!! I couldn’t believe it and I asked him what had happened to her, why was she like that? He replied that her mother had left her like that after the beatings and so much abuse. I was totally shocked and was in disbelief. From that day on, I agonized over why I never did anything to help her and the thought of that has stuck with me to this day.
Growing up, I had a very fortunate childhood because I had a family of professionals in which I was educated with values and moral principles. As a child, I had the experience of living with a few minors who suffered from some kind of abuse, infused either by parents, or a close family member. But I was lucky because nothing major happened to me, other than some type of emotional psychological abuse, from which no one is ever safe. At the age of 8 my parents divorced, and it radically changed my environment. I began to understand firsthand the abuses that are suffered in both home and at school. But none of this harm was ever related to sexual or physical abuse, but merely psychological and emotional.
By the age of 19 I, too, was already feeling the ravages of being the son of a dysfunctional family that resulted in a somatization disorder which caused cancer with a malignant fibrohistiositoma in my right shoulder. With the prospect of dying young, I decided I would no longer be a good, well-behaved boy. Instead, I would have fun with parties that had no end, fleeting loves, and without worrying about anyone other than myself for the time I had left. Eleven surgeries later, plus chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I was healthy again. But in reality, I know that it was not any of that treatment that saved me, but the Faith in God and the opportunity I had to read and learn about psychology, psychiatry, self-help etc. It helped me understand the emotional and psychological damage caused by the grudges and guilt that led me to have such low self-esteem. My defenses were so depressed that they did not have the opportunity to defend myself against cancer. I know my healing came from removing psychological trauma from my life.
That experience led me to volunteer at a shelter for people with cancer that had a dedicated area for children. For some reason whenever I have gone to the communities, be it for some apostolate of my religion or for the scauts or whatever, I always ended up being a leader and caregiver for the children Perhaps it’s due my empathy or because it’s easy for me to understand the needs of children which they do not know how to express. I recognize the behavior they denote, which in most cases is ATTENTION. Many of them were children very loved by their parents, but many of them also bore the mark of emotional psychological abuse and sometimes even physical abuse. Their systematic death and the impotence that it feels like not being able to do anything for them ultimately led me to withdraw from volunteering.
Some years later, I had a relationship that ended because the mother of my newborn did not want to be a mother or want to care for our baby. There I begin to experience what I never thought I would see firsthand; a mother who devalues her own child. It was unheard of for me. That’s when I begin to learn about the emotional pain of a baby that grows with little attention from one of the parents, the gaps, the behaviors that denote it, the unfilled need of care, the lack of protection, treated like a leftover, and all the emotional psychological damage etc., and he is my own son; I lived it through him. I could tell a lot more that I have learned of the damage that can be infused to a child by their own parents, but due to legal prudence, I cannot delve into this issue at this time.
While I’m unable to say more, this situation finally opened my eyes and instilled a power in me that pushed me to finally take action and be a silent bystander no more. The fact of having always been close to children who suffered abuse helped me, somehow, to understand the language that a child uses to speak out their sadness and the damage they are suffering, without words. The looks, the gestures… I realized all this led me to have the ability to be empathetic with those who suffer. That was the day I founded ASCDEM and have made it my mission to protect the innocent.