"How does one describe evil, and how does one explain the evils of those who wore the face of God, who cloaked evil with His Veil?"
Kim Richardson has written a stunning story of abuse, heinous crimes against helpless children, and amazing triumph over those circumstances. It is a story which both broke my heart and showed me hope and what it means to be resilient and of strong character.
Church should be a safe place and religious leaders should be models of caring and compassion. Schools and orphanages run by churches should be havens of safety and learning, not the hellish existence Richardson and so many others lived through. It boggles the mind that so many troubled abusive individuals were congregated into a single staff at one orphanage in rural Kentucky. This is not a story for the faint-hearted. The abuse descriptions are graphic, and all the more tragic given the age of the abused. Richardson's first clear memory of abuse was at age three.
The story is told in a series of flashbacks superimposed over the present, most notably Richardson's deposition given to the Catholic attorneys in her lawsuit. It offers a strong contrast between the frightened, confused child who was abused and beaten for nonsensical offenses and the strong confident adult facing her fears. She was speaking out on behalf of herself, her sisters and other orphans who had endured the same cruelty and abuse.
Imagine being told every day of your young life that you are useless, that you are evil. Imagine being forced to do menial labor and bloodying your own hands so the overseers would be convinced you'd worked hard, even being dosed with undocumented drugs. How can this be in a world where adults are supposed to be the nurturers, the caretakers? These children were not troublemakers—they simply had the misfortune to have been handed over by the state of Kentucky to the St. Thomas-St. Vincent Orphanage. "Orphan. Was there a more lonesome word in the lexicon?" Richardson reflected as an adult. Surely she and her fellow orphanage dwellers must have wondered. With not a single caring adult to advocate for them, to help them negotiate their hellish day-to-day existence, they absorbed horrific shocks to their physical, mental, and spiritual selves. It's a wonder any survived—some did not, and all had to bear lifelong scars.
"One day I'm going to be that the rainbow at the end of that road and I will stretch across, disappear, and I will be in charge of my changes." At six years old, Richardson found a kernel of hope to which she clung. Ironically, perhaps, it was a rainbow, a symbol of God's hope and promise in the Bible. Not only did Richardson survive, she fought back. She found a dedicated, compassionate attorney who would help her expose the horrors and file a lawsuit against the Church and the Sisters who had terrorized so many innocents. Bad days, bad memories—yes, they exist in her life, but the good far outweighs the bad. She found in attorney McMurry a man who "knew who wore the face of God." She has the "forever family" she always dreamed of in her loving and supportive husband and children. She cheated death to live victoriously.
I would recommend this book to anyone who works with abused children or works with support groups for those who have been abused. This new edition, which includes the outcome of the lawsuit, as well as a new Readers' Guide, would make it a fine choice for book clubs. It is not an easy read, or one which I would term "enjoyable," but it is enlightening and encouraging. It is a story of triumph over great evil and against great odds. It will enrich your life.
The Unbreakable Child is Kim Michele Richardson's first book. She is a graduate of Sullivan University, a wife and mother, a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, and a speaker/advocate for abused children. She resides in Kentucky with her husband and children. Find out more on her website.
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