*******TRIGGERS. Especially regarding physical violence against small children **************
If I was going to be proper about this, I would wait until April to bump this thread. However, it is on my mind now and I'd rather now wait to share what I know about the blue ribbon.
The blue ribbon as a reminder of child abuse is a symbol that is both broad and incredibly specific. It is broad in that it is intended to remind people of the horrors of all kinds of child abuse and that both genders are victimized. It is incredibly specific in that the color of the ribbon was chosen by Bonnie Finney because blue was the color of the bruises on the body of her dead grandson, little 3-year old Michael Wayne "Bubba" Dickinson.
Bonne Finney has told her story many times over the years. Here's a link to one letter she sent to a child abuse website:www.yesican.org/blueribbion.html
Three year old Bubba was removed from his abusive home in October 1988. Partly due to the lies of his mother, he was returned at the beginning of November. On Thanksgiving 1988, he was beaten severly for not eating his thanksgiving dinner. His mother didn't take him to the hospital. She told no one. The next day, little Bubba died. His poor broken body was shoved into a toolbox and thrown into a local swamp. His body was recovered March 9, 1989 -- 24 years ago today.
His mother, Belinda Dickinson, spent the next year trying to explain why she was not responsible for what happened to her children. After making bail, my parents took pity on her and she lived with my family for several months. My mother told the press that 26 year-old Belinda was a child herself and as much a victim of the abuse as Bubba and his sisters. I have a lot of issues regarding my parents bringing such a woman into our house, but for now I'll just say that for one reason or another, Belinda was able to convince my family and the entire church community that she should not be held liable for the death of her child. My job, I remember, was to cheer Belinda up when she was sad. The night before her sentencing, my brother and I were brought to her room and more or less told to keep her spirits up. So we played board games and sang songs and she told me that she was going to keep living with us (a blatant lie unless she honestly thought she was going to get off scott free). It was weird, but I already used to having the job of being the emotional stalwart in my disfunctional family. I just knew that she was my current assignment, and that my worth was wrapped up in my ability to keep other people calm and happy. Being 11, I was not even aware of what she had done until I attended her sentencing hearing and heard the terrible truth from the lips of the prosecutor. My parents never thought to prepare me for that shock, nor they ever attempt to talk with me about it afterward.
The court did not buy it, though they also stopped short of calling her a murderer despite the role of accomplice she played in 1)bringing her child into the situation, 2)lying to the authorities about his wounds, and 3) helping to cover up his death. On May 30, 1990, Belinda Dickinson was sentenced to five years on charges of criminal child neglect. She previously given testimony that helped convict her boyfriend of murder. He is still in jail.
Like many needy people that my mother brought into my life and then tired of, I only saw Belinda once more, when I was 12 and my mother decided I should visit her in jail to cheer her up. I didn't have much to say but I do remember staring at her and wondering why it was the job of people like me to make people like her feel better. About the same time, my father and I took a visit to Bubba's grave. I remember standing over the grave of this little boy I'd never met and feeling a profound sense of unfairness in life.
If I ever met Bonnie Finney, I don't remember her. I have no idea what happened to Belinda Dickinson after she made parole. This isn't a story about me. But it is a story that I became a small part of when I was young and has stayed with me. It is a story about adults acting liking children and children having to live (or die) with the actions of self-centered parents, who are more concerned with their own emotional neediness than with the physical and emotional needs of their children.
I don't see much about the blue ribbon where I live. I was surprised when I started looking up news articles on Bubba for my own healing and learned that the case was connected to a national movement. And I don't mean to hijack it by daring to include my own periphial suffering to Bubba's horrible tragedy. But I do think it is a sign that the cycle of abuse and narcissism doesn't stop by itself. People need to be aware. They need to ask questions. They need to listen to the children. I know all of you know this, I know that I am preaching to the choir. But I am hoping for three things here:
1) be sympathetic to forms of abuse other than your own.
2) never tire of spreading awareness and encouraging question asking. Acceptance of lies killed Bubba. Questioning them saved his sisters' lives.
3) reject the horrible lie that it is worth gambling the lives and souls of children to honor the emotional needs of the mother. Wounded as she may be herself, sacrificing her son's well-being (either physically or emotionally) is a crime mothers should not escape.
Thank you for reading.
1. I used old articles from the newspaper "The Virginia Pilot" to supplement my child's memory of these events.
2. I've given enough personal info here that my identity could be discovered if someone was really dedicated. I have nothing to be ashamed of, but I would prefer it if anyone who stumbles across this now or in the future reads it as a way to learn about Bubba and about abuse and not a way to figure out who I am.