“Mama, I Don’t Feel Good”
By: Juanita White
Community Building Manager, Binghampton Development Corporation
I work in Binghampton. It is in the heart of the city. Close to the zoo. The Children’s Museum is nearby. The Green Line, a walking and biking trail, runs right through it. Cars drive down Tillman, the heart of Binghampton, as people come into the city from the suburbs or as they leave the city for them. It is an interesting place. Until the bullets ring out.
On pretty days when the sun is shining and children play in the park somebody might fire a gun at someone else. Did you know that? And people run. People lock their doors. Others run to look. Those of us who work here look out of the window or go to the door to peer out.
Or it might disturb your sleep at night. It happens when children are sitting in their classrooms, trying to learn. Police come. Sometimes. Sometimes not. You see, this happens here. Not a whole lot, but enough that people are used to it. “They are always shooting,” is what the people say. Night and day.
But somewhere in Binghampton a child feels bad after this happens. Whether it is Binghampton, or South Memphis, or Frayser or Bartlett or Collierville-a child gets sick when there is violence. Know how I know this?
When you are stressed or upset does your head ache? When you are scared do you get sick to your stomach? Does the sight of a dead animal in the street make you want to throw up? Imagine experiencing these things in your neighborhood a lot-enough that it makes you sick. Imagine a child in a home, or on a street or in a neighborhood where this happens. Imagine that child trying to sleep, to concentrate in school, to play peacefully with friends.
Studies show that children exposed to violence-in the home or in the neighborhood- have many problems. According to one study in Wisconsin preschool-aged children who witness intimate partner violence (violence between couples) may develop a range of problems, including headaches and abdominal pain. They also can display behaviors such as bed-wetting, thumb sucking, and sleep disturbances.
When the violence happens in the neighborhood children become depressed. They are scared. They worry. They act out in school because they are fearful. A child may begin to think that violence at home and in the community means that the world is unsafe and that he or she is unworthy of protection. Community violence is also linked to anxiety and depression.
After a recent murder in Binghampton a teenager told me about what he saw. He and his friends were coming from the movies and saw the police cars so they went to the scene to see what happened. “I saw the dude and his heart was hanging out. I saw his guts.” He shook his head and made a face, a not so pleasant face. I wonder if he wanted to vomit when he saw that. You think he sees that image over and over? You bet.
Is this what we want for our children?
October is Domestic Violence Month. We will host a conference Friday, October 2, 2015 to hear more about domestic violence and its effects on children. Maybe we can work together to do something about this. Join us. Email Juanita@bdcmemphis.org for more information.