CHILD ABUSE referat






CHILD ABUSE

Contents



1. Introduction.3



2. Different kinds of child abuse

2.1. Physical abuse.

2.2. Sexual abuse ..

2.3. Emotional abuse

2.4. Failure of thrive.

2.5. Exploitation

2.5.1. Child labour

2.5.2. Child prostitution .

2.6. Child pornography..



  1. Noticing abuse.-.6


  1. The victims . 7


  1. The abuser . 8


6. Help .. 9



7. Summary of the books

7.1. Chinese Handcuffs ..

7.2. Escape ..

7.3. A Rock And A Hard Place ..



8. Bibliography 16


1. Introduction

Most children are brought up in happy, loving families, but for a huge number of children these needs are not fulfilled.
During the past few years, society has begun to recognise that relationship between children and adults often goes wrong – sometimes violently wrong.
Child abuse is a delicate subject. Although everyone agrees that it exists, finding an exact definition is difficult. In the book “Child abuse” I found one, that I like very much.


“ Child abuse is a prison of fear and lies. A child abused is left with scars that take a long time to heal. Some children may never fully recover unless they receive help.”



2. Different kinds of child abuse

Every year 150 – 200 children die of child abuse in Britain. There are several different types of child abuse, although the exact categories vary from country to country. In Britain five types of abuse are recognised: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional abuse and failure to thrive. In many cases children don’t suffer only from one type, for example, sexual abuse often includes emotional abuse.
In the following pages I worked out more details of four of these types plus child labour, plus child prostitution and plus child pornography.



2.1. Physical abuse

Physical abuse is the most recognised type of abuse, because the consequences, like broken bones, burns, bites, bruises and brain damages are often visible.
But many injuries look like the result of everyday accidents and abusers use this fact to avoid suspicion.
To decide if an injury is the result of physical abuse or not, you have to think of some factors:

  • Is this the first time the child has suffered from this injury?
  • Is the explanation of the parents how the injury happened possible or not?
  • Was the child brought straight to hospital or was there a delay?

In general a small amount of physical punishment is considered as normal. Many parents smack their children, when they are naughty. This shows their helplessness. They don’t know how to treat their children. Instead of talking or explaining parents often lose their temper and become aggressive. But isn’t this sort of punishment a kind of abuse either? Where should we draw the line between punishment and abuse?
Besides physical punishment doesn’t produce better-behaved children. Parents have to set limits to change their behaviour. With smacking they only tell their children what they have done wrong but not what thy should make better.



2.2. Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is now considered to be the most harmful type of abuse.

There are three main types:

  • Incest: abuse in the family, for example between children and their biological or step-parents, or between brothers and sisters. Most of the cases of sexual abuse is incest.
  • Abuse between stranger and a child (including paedophile abuse)
  • Sexual exploitation (pornographic films or books, child prostitution)

Sexual abuse is heavily discovered, because the child is mostly frightened by the abuser and sometimes he or she thinks it’s his/her own fault or they feel ashamed. Children normally trust their parents, they admire and love them. First kids believe that everything what Mum or Dad is doing is good. So when they realise that the relationship is not “normal”, that there are things which hurt them, kids think that it is their own fault and not the one of their perfect parents. They feel ashamed and try to keep it secret.

The average age of a sexually abused child is ten years and 80% of these children registered as being abused were girls.



2.3. Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is the most difficult category of abuse to define. It is so closely connected with the other types of abuse that some countries don’t accept it as a separate form.
Generally emotional abuse is when parents are unable to show their child love and affection, or when they threaten or shout at the child all the time, so that he/she loses self-confidence and becomes nervous. Constant hassle and criticism instead of praise and love have serious effects on the child’s personality. For example, it might be hard for them to form successful relationships.

Example (given in the book “child abuse”):

“My mum makes me work for four hours after school every day. At weekend I only get a couple of hours play. She says I’ll thank her when I got older. But whatever I do, she is never satisfied.”



2.4. Failure of thrive

Failure of thrive is also called growth retardation. Some children grow more slowly as a consequence of neglect.
Example:
In the “Munchausen by proxy syndrome” a mother causes or imagines her child to be ill. She also may use drugs and poisons to produce symptoms of illness. Often the abused child is smaller than other children of the same age.



2.5. Exploitation


2.5.1. Child labour

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says 250 Million children between the age of 5 and 14 are working – 61% of them in Asia, 32% in Africa, 7% in Latin America and a small amount in rich countries: 2 million in the EU. This means that one of three children in Africa, one of four in Asia and one of five in Latin America works.
About 20% of children in developing countries earn no money for their work and two – third of child workers live in the county and not in town.
120 Million children work full time, this means they can' t go to school, learn a trade or have any time for playing.


When there is no possibility of attending school, maybe it’s better for children to work than hang out in the streets. Some children’s movements, like the Nats (= Ninos y Adolescentes Trabajadores = Child and Teenage Workers) are against the intention of the United Nations to abolish child labour. The Nats don’t regard prostitution, slavery, drug trafficking and work, that is harmful to heath as work, but as punishable crimes. What they want is to improve their work conditions: more respect, more work breaks, a better wage and access to education and health care. A general ban of child labour would it make hard for them to survive, because working gives them self-confidence, know-how and money to feed themselves.
The social situation in these countries is very bad. Parents have a lot of children who should support them when they are old. People have hardly any medical treatment, there are many less-paid jobs, starvation, high unemployment rate, exploitation, corruption,


2.5.2. Child prostitution

In the United States

  • There are between 100 000 and 300 000 children sexually exploited through prostitution and pornography.
  • 25-30% of all prostitutes are children younger than 18.
  • Many of them can make $500 –600 a night, but they hardly ever see more than $25. The rest is for their pimps.
  • 70% of female-juvenile prostitutes have been raped by customers an average of 31 times per prostitute.

Reason for this type of exploitation: Many “costumers” think that sex with juvenile prostitutes is safer than sex with adult prostitutes. This is wrong. On the contrary, children run the highest risk to transmit diseases like HIV/AIDS, syphilis, herpes, hepatitis B,

Victims: Most of them are 14 to 18 years old, belong to a middle-class family and suffer from low self-esteem and poor self-image. If the have problems and run away it will be easy to manipulate them, because soon they are hungry and alone, they want attention and affection. A pimp takes advantage of this and tries to get the child’s trust. Only after a child is financially and emotionally dependent on him he introduces the child to the world of sexual exploitation.

Consequences for the victim: female prostitutes are beaten by their pimps and abused by their customers.

Prevention:

  • Because most of the victims are runaways, first parents have to learn how to communicate with their children.
  • In order to protect runaways from the dangers of the street, like child prostitution, professionals have to be educated.
  • To make the children aware of the danger.
  • A lot of prostitutes are also drug addicts, who need the money to buy drugs. If you increase the number of drug addicts you will also increase the number of prostitutes.



In Asian countries (Thailand, Sri Lanka,..)

Most of the girls are forced by their parents to earn money through prostitution. Because many families are excluded from benefits, selling a daughter often seems to be the only possible opportunity to join the “good life”, which mean having a comfortable house, a TV set, a motorcycle,

Prevention:

  • First of all, the attitude of men towards women and sexuality has to change.
  • There should be stricter laws and punishments.
  • We also can provide financial support to help girls in school, so they will have more alternative jobs.

Why do men use the sex trade in Asia?

  • In their home country they are afraid to lose their good reputation
  • The presence of so many other people acting the same way justify any of their actions
  • The further one travels from home the less moral he becomes.
  • It’s exiting to do something you could never do at home.
  • A lot of men prefer young girls, especially virgins, because then they can be sure not to be infected with a venereal disease. Young girls also have a touch of innocence and freshness, that turns on some men.


2.6. Child pornography


Child pornography is a very harmful industry. The children used in pornography are between the age of a few months and 18 years. While those who molest children are selective concerning age, sex and race of their victims, the persons who offers pornography takes every child.
Photographs, videotapes, films, and magazines of children in sexual poses and acts make up a lot of money. Especially the meaning of internet concerning child pornography is getting more and more important. The operations between the child pornographer and the pedophiles are underground and restricted. Children are intimidated and often come into contact with sexually transmitted diseases, rape and torture.
Through the internet it’s very easy for pedophiles to exchange pornographic materials, including names and addresses of children. With the help of modern techniques (encryption) molesters are able to transport information and photographs with little chance of detection.
How do pedophiles contact children?
More and more often they get to know each other on an electronic bulletin board. The molester asks the child to be his pen pal, they exchange private messages and the grown-up gets all the information he needs (family background, friends,), especially the trust of the child. He gives him/her a lot of love and affection and convinces him/her not to be loved at home. The child believes him and consequently he/she is doing what the molester wants her/him to do.

It’s difficult for police to regulate computer pornography. Sure, there are laws that forbid it in any way, but if the police discovers such a web-side, it might be copied. To prevent such sides, police must be able to control provider services to censor pornographic bulletin boards. Therefore law must be changed and a lot of money will be necessary.



3. Noticing abuse


When children starts to behave in the following ways they might be victims of abuse or exploitation:

  • Bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed, insomnia
  • Changes in behaviour, extreme mood swings, excessive crying
  • Unusual interest in sexual matters
  • Changes in toilet-training habits
  • Bruises, cuts or poorly explained injuries
  • Pain, bleeding, fluid or rawness in the private areas
  • School problems


4. The victims

Abused children come from all types of families. Some children who are raised in poor conditions live in happy and safe families. Others may live in rich houses but are abused.
Risk factors:

  • Children are more at risk to be physically abused in families where is unemployment, where the father is a manual worker and where is a conflict between the parents.
  • Of sexual abuse: Children are at risk from stepfathers and if one of the family members was sexually abused as a children themselves.
  • Of exploitation: runaways (Ironically: Most of them flee from homes where they have been abused)
  • Mentally handicapped children, because they can’t defend themselves

Reaction of abused children:

  • Some children try hard to avoid abuse: they are anxious, sensitive and over attentive,
  • Others do nothing against it, because they are afraid the abuse will get harder: are very active, clumsy, careless and have often accidents,
  • Stop enjoying things children usually enjoy to do, acting like grown-ups
  • Children often blame themselves for what is happening, because they trust on their parents (who are often the abusers) and consider them perfect. Consequently it can only be their own fault.

Effects on the victim and his/her family:

If the culprit is a family member the situation is very difficult, because the family break up. Consequently there is more chaos and stress for the abused person than before. The need for a therapy for the child is very important, but not only for him/her. The whole family (or the rest of it) needs a counselling to learn how to cope with the situation. Maybe there are pent-up guilty feelings. ( The mother because she didn’t notice anything, or she realised it, but prefered to be quiet; the child because he/she thinks the destruction of the family is his/her fault.) Nevertheless the abuser can be a person they have loved. He hurts his family and now he goes away (maybe he is imprisoned).
Besides after sexual abuse a child has to learn to develop a normal sexuality and feeling for his/her own body again. Victims tell that the feel dirty, untouchable and worthless afterwards. Children may be fearful, withdrawn, anxious, aggressive and confused, they may suffer from insomnia, bed-wetting or depression and could have difficulties at school and problems to trust anybody again. According to some experts abused children are more likely to turn to alcohol, drugs or crime; to abuse their own children ( vicious circle). If the abused child isn’t able to get over this painful experience, it could be possible that she/he would never have a normal love relationship.


  1. The abuser

Abusers are fathers, mothers, friends and relations. Only occasionally they are stranger. 90% of sexual abuse is committed by men, but physical abuse is committed by men and women equally.

Two groups of abuser

  • Abuse connected with background: unemployment, abused as a child, alcohol problem,
  • Abuse connected with personality: Outwardly he is often isolated, impulsive and self-righteous. But inside he feels confused, frustrated, powerless and dependent.
    The sexual abuser is often moralistic, shy and uses intellectual and rational arguments to explain his behaviour.

Many of the abusers were victims of abuse themselves. According to some experts women who has been sexually abused as a child are attracted to an abusive type of man. ( her daughters and sons might also be abused)




6. Help

The help is different in every country. Often there isn’t enough evidence to prove that abuse has taken place, but almost every child who says she/he is a victim, tells the truth. Piecing the child’s story together may be a slow and painful process.
For a social worker it’s a very difficult decision to take they child away or not. If he risks to let the child stay at home and it is seriously abused again, or even killed it’s his fault. On the other hand if he takes the child away and later he found out the child’s story isn’t true it can be a big damage for the family.
Many children often don’t tell about the abuse, because they are afraid their family will be separated and he/she has to stay at a home or in a foster care. So it depends on the case what’s the right thing that should be done.



Where can a child find help?

Professional help he /she gets from doctors, psychologists, lawyers, social workers, teachers and the police. There also exist special agencies, like NSPCC (National Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), Child Line or KP (Kidscape).






Legal situation:
Definition: A child is a person under the age of 18. Abuse occurs when adults hurt children, either physically or in some other way.
The age of consent is in various countries different.


man & woman

man & man

woman & woman

Austria




Great Britain




USA



or illegal


or illegal

Thailand

13 or 15

legal at all ages

legal at all ages


In the USA these information depends on different state laws. In a lot of states homosexual intercourse is illegal and therefore forbidden. Noticeable are also the differences between man&man and woman&woman.
It’s no surprise that in Thailand these laws are not so strict as in the other countries, because of the sex tourism.
About the punishment, if you break the law, I couldn’t find out anything.
But what are the consequences for abusers? The following information are only guilty in the USA and vary in the states!

  • A person who violates or attempts to violate should be imprisoned not less than 10 years nor more than 20 years.
  • If a person has only one prior conviction, sexual exploitation of children, the penalty is between 15 and 30 years.
  • If there are 2 or more prior convictions he/she can be imprisoned not less than 30 years, but not more than life.
  • If it results the death of a person the offender is punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

Statutes of limitation:

If someone becomes a victim as an adult he/she has to report it within 2 or 3 years. Persons who were victims in their childhood have no statutes of limitation.
False reporting:
Persons who report in “good faith” are immune from civil and criminal liability!
Discovery:
In most civil cases it is not necessary to use the victim’s sexual history and other private information, but most states will allow discovery if these details are relevant. Sexual and personal history is usually considered as relevant, as well as any diaries or writings of the victims.
Impact of therapy:

Survivor should be aware that in a civil case his/her therapy will no longer be totally confidential. The therapist’s notes and records will subjects to disclosure, although their use will be limited.



7. Summary of the books

7.1. Chinese Handcuffs

Characters:

Jennifer Lawless, 16 years-old, is sexually and physically abused by her stepfather T.B. She is the best basketball player in her team, because she is very tall, takes every risk and is brutal. She doesn’t matter is she is hurt during a game (it seems as if she is unable to feel pain).


Dawn Lawless: Jennifer’s younger sister, who is only physically abused by T.B., doesn’t know anything about the sexual abuse.


T.B.: Jennifer’s stepfather is a very charismatic and popular lawyer. He is able to convince people to everything


Dillon Hemingway is good at sports: triathlon and is an assistant of Coach Sherman.


Preston Hemingway: Dillon’s older brother was a drug addict (has been clean for some month). He was handicapped because of an accident with his motor bike. His girlfriend was Stacy. He committed suicide.


Claude Hemingway: Dillon’s father is divorced. His daughter lives with his former wife. (He is a Vietnam soldier)


Coach Kathy Sherman is the trainer of the girl basketball team. She isn’t a usual teacher: It’s more important to her to help her students than to do her duty as a teacher ( didn’t advise the abuse of Jennifer)


Stacy Ryder: Preston’s girlfriend and the mother of his baby

(John Caldwell: headmaster of school)


Plot:

The book “Chinese Handcuffs” is about two 16 years – old teenagers, Dillon and Jennifer, who are very good at sports. When Dillon was 14 his brother committed suicide in front of him. Dillon blames himself of this death and misses Preston a lot.
After he fell in love with two girls – Stacy and Jennifer – at the same time, he is totally mixed up. Stacy was Preston’s girlfriend and is the mother of his son. Jennifer tells hem that she is sexually abused by her stepfather. He tries to help her and calls a famous psychologist and the helpline for sexually abused children, but because he doesn’t want to tell them Jennifer’s name they can’t help her. Meanwhile he prevents Jen from committing suicide. She is very desperate, because she had decided to leave home together with her sister when her mother told her that she is again pregnant with a girl. A girl who might become a victim of T. B. if she really leaves home.

Dillon decides to take the initiative: He installs a hidden video camera in Jennifer’s bedroom and records the horrible crime. Finally he blackmails T. B.: either he’ll leave his family immediately or he’ll give a copy of the tape to the police. T. B. leaves, but Jennifer is angry of Dillon, because she feels ashamed. Later she decides to advise T. B., because she won’t risk other victims.
Dillon realises that a closer relationship to Stacy or Jennifer won’t be possible any more, because of their common past (Preston’s suicide, video tape,)


Details of the abuse:
As an infant Jennifer is sexually abused by her real father. First she thinks that’s normal and that it is her own fault, but after she saw a film about abuse in school she starts to tell. Consequently her father is sent away and Jen is sent to a therapist, who helps her a lot. Some year later her mother gets to know T.B. and marries him. First he is a loving and concerned dad, who tells fairy tales to Jen and her sister and gives them many presents. She is eleven years when she tries to find help at the Child Protective Service the first time. Afterwards T.B. comes in her room with a Polaroid picture of her dog’s head under boot, wedged next to the car tire. He threatens her if she ever told anyone, the dog would have an accident. The day she reports it again the dog dies. Next he threatens to do any harm to her mother and sister. She didn’t believe.
T.B. is one of the top family lawyer, so he has no problems to convince everybody of his innocence. Even her mother doesn’t believe her although he beats them up all the time. He makes Jen look like a fool and a stupid liar and tells anybody that she wants to get rid of him. Her real father was sent away because of sexual abuse, so she tries the same with T.B.
For a short time Jen lives with a host family, but she is concerned about her sister, who still lives with T.B., that she prefers to go back and protect Dawn.
Since this time she is afraid that if she tells anybody anything her stepfather would hurt her mother or Dawn so she doesn’t until Dillon comes.


7.2. Escape

Character:

Magdalen Wilde is an 18 year-old girl, who finished school and wants to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh.


Lindsay Wilde is Magdalen’s father. His wife suffered from leukaemia and died when Magdalen was an infant. He is a successful businessman, earns a lot of money and travels most of his time.


Melanie Howkins: Magdalen’s teacher.

Greg Howkins: Melanie’s cousin.

Zephaniah Hustler: gardener of the family Wilde.

Mrs Brook cares for the household of the Wilde’s.

Harley Gresham: the headmaster of Magdalen’s school

Gail: Magdalen’s friend




Plot:

“Escape” from June Oldham is about a girl, called Magdalen, who is sexually abuses by her father.
Because she passes her final exam in an excellent way she is able to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Magdalen works very hard for this exam, because it’s her ticket into freedom, freedom of her father. She plans to live in a students’ hostel, where she will be out of her father’s reach. But Lindsay Wilde has other intentions: he wants to buy an own flat for his daughter.
When Magdalen hears about this she is so desperate that she tries to commit suicide. Greg Howkins interrupts her and saves her life. Together with him she flees to the sea with the car and the money Melanie borrows them. At the journey Magdalen tells Greg everything of her dark secret. They fall in love with each other.
To overcome the whole thing she starts to write an autobiography in the form of a fairy tale, where she is a little princess, her father the King and her mother the Queen.
Meanwhile Melanie organises that Magdalen can life in a students’ hostel. At the end Melanie, Gail, Greg, Mr. Hustler and Mrs Brook (she already suspected the sexual abuse) assure her to help her anytime.



Details of the abuse:

As an infant, when her mother still lives, the abuse starts. Magdalen loves her parents very much, especially her father, who plays with her, tells her stories, gives her presents. The gardener, Mr. Hustler, a very grumpy and pedantic man, threatens Magdalen that he’ll punish her once, because she sometimes picks a flower or “hurts” the lawn.
So first when the “ghost”, that hurts her, appeared, she thinks that this is the penalty of Mr. Hustler. She doesn’t dare to tell it to her father, because he’ll ask her what she has done wrong. Her parents taught her that she will only be punished if she doesn’t behave well. Magdalen is very afraid of this ghost even because he speaks with the voice of her father. Then her mother dies because of her illness. In her last words she tells Magdalen that she should take care of her father. The little girl doesn’t know anything of her mother’s illness and believes that her death is the ghost’s fault. She hopes that when she behaves well, the ghost or Mr. Hustler will bring her back.
Later, when she is older, she realises the ghost’s real identity, but first she thinks every father does it with his daughter, it’s normal. But when she lives in the house of her girlfriend Gail (Lindsey has to travel), she notices that she is the only one whose father comes in her bedroom. Now she guesses the real meaning of her fathers nickname for his daughter: “Special”. She is special, unique.
Magdalen does never dare to tell her dark secret to anyone, because she thinks it’s her own fault and she feels ashamed. Besides her father is a very popular, powerful and charismatic man, so she’s afraid nobody would believe her. She places her hopes in studying at Edinburgh, where she is out of her father’s reach.
She has never had a normal relationship to boys or men. When they tried to kiss or embrace her she didn’t want to see them again. Now Greg is her hope. She wants to get rid of her fears and start a closer relationship with him. But this isn’t easy.


7.3. A Rock And A Hard Place

“A Rock And A Hard Place” was written by Anthony Godby Johnson and it is his own autobiography. For me, it is the most difficult but best English book I have ever read.


Anthony Godby Johnson

Until he is 11 years old he becomes physically and sexually abused by his parents and by friends of them. Tony has never been allowed to behave like a child. He has to take care of himself all the time, because his parents do not support him, they are his enemies. Tony has no bed, so he lies on the ground. Mostly he can’t sleep anyway, because he is afraid his parents will attack him and he suffers from nightmares. During such nights he and his friend David often ride the train in Brooklyn and one of them keeps watching while the other sleeps. They are always prepared with a story of explanation for any cop who questions them.
Tony doesn’t have any toys and only few clothes, for example he has no winter coat. Apart from that his parents don’t give him enough food, he often has nothing to eat for one week. He would have starved if he hadn’t managed to get food for himself.
Outside his good-looking parents seem to be as any other parents, too. His father has a job as a civil servant and they don’t live on welfare or are uneducated, but they think children are the possession of adults, who can do what they want with them. Tony has never had a childhood. He fears his parents, who humiliated him and who intended to hurt him as much as possible.
Once he asks them to get the soundtrack of “The Muppet Show”. They tell him that he’ll get it if he does a favour for them. This means to do nothing against being sexually abused by his parents friend. Afterwards he asks again to get the soundtrack but his father knocks him down.
Christmas doesn’t exist for him. His parents tell him, because he is a bad boy, Santa Claus doesn’t bring him any present, not even a Christmas tree. Consequently he feels ashamed. His wish is only to get hugs and kisses from his parents like the other kids.
School rescues him from prison at home, so he likes attending it. Tony is a good student, although he has to write his homework’s in school, because his father tears every book, which belongs to Tony. His favourite hobbies are playing baseball and reading. In school he always hides his bruises with clothes, because he is afraid somebody will discover his painful secret and will ask questions he can’t answer.
One day – he is eleven – he decides to commit suicide, because the secret can’t stay inside him any longer. Besides his father has beaten him up twice this day and he is heavily hurt. Before ending his life he wanted to tell someone that there was once a kid named Tony and calls a nation-wide hot line. The voice on the other end of the phone belongs to Pop who promises to do everything to help him. Because of his gentle voice Tony believes him. Pop gives him the number of Mom, a referral number of his computer, who picks him up. She convinces Tony to go into hospital and promises also to do everything to help him. When Mom and Pop get to know each other they fall in love with one another immediately and adopt Tony. His biological parents, who threaten him that if he ever tries to get away his father will hunt and kill him, are sent into prison.
In hospital the doctor discovers 54 badly healed bones and an advanced case of syphilis. Years of indiscriminately taking aspirin, not eating right and general neglect were very harmful to his body. It’s no wonder that he is paralysed on the left side for a short time. Only with the help of Pop he learns to go again.
Now the happiest part of his life has begun. He loves his new family very much, they go on vacations, watching TV, quarrel and talk a lot of together. But suddenly they are told that Tony suffers from AIDS. That’s a big setback. He is really desperate and depressive, but then he gets to know “Big Daddy”(Jack) who is also HIV-positive. They talk a lot about death, dying, love and life, about everything.
At the end of the book Tony is about 14 years-old and has to stay most of his time in hospital. His last wish is that he may die at home.
Tony is very brave and optimistic all the time, and as a child he always thinks that his situation only can become better. Although life or most people he knew/knows were unfair to him, made life to hell, he still is fond of living and loves people, especially his new family. He has a deep, innate trust on the world, that can’t be destroyed. Through his abuse and illness he gets a lot of maturer than other teenagers his age.



David

is black and Tony’s best friend. They got to know each other when some classmates organise a fight between them. Afterwards they has to attend the progressive education program. David has also a lot of problems at home, there is no stability. First he lived with his father, but after he was serving a life sentence for murder David is sent to his mother, who isn’t interested in him. At the beginning of a week she gives him money and he has to manage everything for himself. David has been an eye-witness of his fathers murder.
He is the only person who knows nearly everything of Tony’s dark secret. They trust and love each other. In contrast to Tony he is very pessimistic and lost any trust in the world. He doesn’t believe in love, in his opinion all people, except Tony, are evil. Both take care of each other. David often borrows Tony some clothes and gives him something to eat.
Tony’s Mom organises that David is adopted by an friend of her. Although the boy trusts his new father he isn’t able to love him. When he hears that David suffers from AIDS he is really depressive and afraid to lose him. One day later he is dead, because he took cocaine.
Tony doesn’t think it is suicide but an accident. To lose the only person who has almost known everything of his life hits him really hard.



Jack L. Godby, Pop

Pop is black and was raised in Arkansas during the sixties. He is ten years older than Mom, has two grown-up children and is also divorced. He loves Mom very much and Tony enjoys his hearty laugh. As a boy he wanted to become an astronomer, but he chose instead a career in military. Twenty-five years in the service took him all over the world.
For Tony he is the best he ever got. He can talk with him anytime and Pop never gets impatient, loud or aggressive. He always tells him the truth and doesn’t withhold anything. Tony also likes his singing very much.



Mom
has beautiful smiling blue eyes, a quiet inner strength and a big common sense. Her two daughters, Gina (9) and Robin (7), becomes good friends of Tony. Mom is divorced, white and a New York City girl. Raised in a poor but loving home, the youngest of five children she is also the only girl in her family. She and her brothers have a very close relationship, they hug and kiss each other and are actively involved in one another’s lives.
She also falls immediately in love with Pop.


Zeke

has a job as a doorman of an apartment building. He is 39 and very poor, so he lives in a small room in the buildings basement. He doesn’t care of schoolwork, problems or money, fun is more important. Twice a week Tony accompanies Zeke as he collects the garbage from every apartment. He always finds interesting and useful things, like books, expensive clothes or watches.
After his job is taken over by a younger man he has to live on the street.


Allison

Tony falls in love with her, but she is Joey’s girlfriend. She is a vegetarian, because she is sorry for all animals that are killed. That’s why she fights against fur coat manufacturers. At the age of 12 she belongs to all sorts of human organisations and committees.
She is a very cheerful and gentle person, loving and vulnerable. When she realises that a person is sad, she tries to cheer him up. But when Joey died she loses all her joie de virvre and vitality. She starts taking drugs and stops attending school, loses all her friends and allows nobody to help her.


Joey

has an two year older brother Klein, but it’s sometimes hard to believe that he is really older, because Joey always has to protect him. Joey has a photographic memory and a great mimic. Together with his charm he is able to convince everybody. He is very witty and very popular in school.
Suddenly he is dead. He took cocaine. While he was sleeping he vomited and suffocated.


Uncle Frank

is a doctor. He rides a metallic blue Harley-Davidson, wears a black leather jacket, jeans and T-shirt, rarely smiles and listens to rock music. He wants to seem hard and untouchable, but he isn’t it at all. If you dare to call him polite, charming and wonderful he’ll get crazy. Mom’s brother Mike is his best friend.
He calls himself a “body-mechanic” and refuses to accept any money for his work, although many colleagues admires him. He is very sensitive and does a lot more than only “repair” a body. Frank is Tony’s model, he admires him and wants to become like he.


Jack

Jack suffers from HIV-positive, is gay and an ex-actor. His voice sounds like that of a radio announcer. Tony loves and trusts him therefore he calls him Big Daddy. (Pop called his grandfather that name, because he loved him so much) He shows Tony to take care of the present and to use the ugliness of the past to help himself become a better person. For Tony Jack is a hero who saved him.
They don’t postpone joy, every day should be something special. But they also cry, scream and held each other. And they talk a lot of their common disease and about death.



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