This Woman Is Not Allowed to Cry

This is a photo, a mug shot to be precise, of Helen Ford.  I don’t know much about Helen Ford and the first I heard of her was yesterday.  Helen was arrested and charged for the murder of her eight year old granddaughter.

Helen Ford, charged and arrested for the murder of her eight year old granddaughter, Gizzell Ford.
Helen Ford, charged and arrested for the murder of her eight year old granddaughter, Gizzell Ford.  Photo courtesy of the Chicago Police Department.

The little girl’s name was Gizzell.  Remember that name, because chances are, she does not have an adult in her life that will work to tell her story and honor her the way I do my own dead daughter.  Rest in peace, Gizzell.

The details about the incident are horrifying.  I read about it in a Chicago Tribune article written by Rosemary Regina Sobol and Geoff Ziezulewicz. They write:

The prosecutor said Gizzell had injuries old and new over her entire body: Cuts, bruises and scratches to her face, ears and lips, bruises and puncture wounds on her back, chest and abdomen and bruises on her arms and legs.

Her neck showed signs of hemorrhaging and fractures and broken cartilage, Pillsbury said. The girl also suffered deep lacerations to her buttocks and had ligature marks on her ankles and wrists, as well as circular burns on her body that may have been cigarette burns, Pillsbury said.

When they examined the home for evidence, police took a pole, twine and cables, some of them smeared with blood. In the bedroom where the girl was found, investigators found blood splattered near her body, Pillsbury said.

Investigators also determined that Gizzell had suffered trauma to her head long enough ago that maggots had hatched in the cuts and spread to the front of her scalp while she was still alive.

Reading that description made me weep.  Maybe it had the same effect on you, too.  The details, specific and grotesque as they are, are important to recognize, though, as a means to bear witness to Gizzell’s suffering. Imagine an eight year old girl, defenseless, in her family home, abused and murdered at the hands of her own grandmother.

I live in a big city, so stories of child abuse are not unfamiliar to me.  They can be seen regularly peppering the headlines and newscasts.  In the moment they are wrenching, and then you watch a commercial, or click to a gossip column, the sad tales of abused children forgotten.  After my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, though, and after four miscarriages, I value the life of a child, any child, more deeply, more profoundly.  I am ashamed to admit that.  The stories, the headlines, the names seem to stick with me now in a way they never did before.

When I see a story of extreme child abuse and neglect, I tend to click on it, steeling myself for what is certain to turn my stomach.  And sure enough, my stomach is always turned.  My eyes tend to well up in response to a child who is missing the must fundamental things a child requires from the adults in their life — love and protection.  I think about my own daughter, who was surrounded by boat loads of love and protection, and yet those were not enough to save her from cancer.

Child abuse is preventable.  Every time, every situation, every whip and slap and burn and cut and chain and restraint is preventable. The prevention gets mucked up in bureaucracy, to be sure, but the presence of bureaucrats is no excuse for the suffering of an abused child.  If anything, it only adds to the manner in which that child was failed.

Seeing this mug shot makes me angry.  You are not allowed to cry, Grandma.  What are her tears about, I wonder.  Is Helen Ford sad she went one step too far this time?  Is Helen Ford sad she was caught?  Is Helen Ford wondering how she ended up in front of a police camera?  Is Helen Ford resentful that she was straddled with the care and feeding of the eight year old daughter of her bedridden son?  Is Helen Ford weeping for herself and what has become of her life?

I don’t know.  And truth is, I don’t care.  Wipe your tears, Grandma.

Gizzell Ford

Rest in peace, Gizzell Ford.  May you know peace, for what surely must be the first time, in death, if not in life.

Click here for more information about child abuse and how to detect and prevent it.  

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