Monday, August 1, 2011

The Otherside of Growing Up in Skokie in the 1960s 1970s

By Vicki Polin
Skokie Sexual Abuse Examiner - August 1, 2011

Please note that the names of those in this story have been changed to protect their identities.
Last year I returned to the Chicago area after being away for over a decade.  It’s been a wonderful experience reconnecting with so many childhood friends through Facebook and attending so many reunions and gatherings that would make anyone smile.  Sharing so many memories of good times and seeing where the lives of my childhood friends have lead them is truly a pleasure.  What we didn’t know was how many of our classmates were being abused in and out of their homes during our childhoods.
I’ll never forget my friend James telling me about how he and Billy were beaten up by two other boys, whose parents were holocaust survivors.  The reason why James was beaten up was because his friend was of German descent and NOT Jewish.  This wasn’t just a one time thing it happened repeatedly throughout his childhood.  
At a reunion picnic I met up with Joanne.  When I first saw her I knew she looked familiar, but I couldn’t place her.  For some strange reason I asked her if she was still friends with Mary and Darlene.  She looked at me in both rage and tears and looked as if she wanted to hit me.  She then went on and described how both Mary, Darlene and Kristina would corner her and beat her up for no reason.  Her beatings happened almost daily.  Even with interventions from school personal the beatings continued.  Her family had no option but to move to another community.  
The saddest part was the fact in all these cases, those who offended my classmates were people I knew and considered to be my friends.  I had no idea this type of bullying was going on.  
At gathering of folks that included those of us who grew up on Chicago’s northshore, a former homecoming queen from another school shared how she was being emotionally abused in her home.  
No matter what she did or said her father would tell her how ugly she was.  No matter what she did or said the emotional abuse never ended.
As young children, my best friend from kindergarten and I used to share our abuse histories, without even knowing what was happening to us was criminal.  I’ll
I’ll never forget the day that Sharon showed me the burn marks on her body given to her by her mother who was an alcoholic.  You see Sharon was often used as an ashtray when her mother was angry at her.  When we were in sixth grade Sharon and several other people I knew started using drugs. I’ll never forget when Sharon showed me how she would shoot up heroin at the age of 11.  Sharon also dropped out of high school when she was sixteen.
I will also never forget when Barbara and I first reunited after thirty years.  Barbara grew up down the street from me.  I was so excited to see her, yet she seemed very different then the last time I saw her.  Barbara shared with me that growing up she was being sexually abused by her oldest brother.  Ever since she shared the details I kept having flashbacks of how she never wanted to go down to the basement of her home where her teenage brother’s bedroom was.  It wasn’t until we were at a party that I saw how much she drank.  It was obvious to me that she was never able to get the necessary help needed to overcome her child abuse history.  
In high school there were a few classmates who attempted and committed suicide.  Looking back and remembering their symptomology, so many of them exhibited the symptoms of children being abused.
Those of us who grew up in Skokie in the 60s and 70s were not exempt from the statistics regarding bullying, physical abuse and the fact that one out of every three to five women and one out of every five to seven men were sexually abused by the time they reached their eighteenth birthday.  

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