Dear Zahra: I'm glad you're dead

by JS O’Brien

Dear Zahra,

The papers say that you are probably dead, and it’s hard to believe that they’re wrong. I’m happy for you. I know you won’t understand this, at first, because you were only ten when you died, Zahra, and ten is just about the last good year that TRAST (tortured, raped, and stripped) children have. I say “good” only in the sense that your life was about to get worse — a lot worse. You never actually had an age that almost anyone else alive would call “good,” but you and I know that even the smallest kindnesses, displays of friendship, or even begrudging smiles are like sips of water to a person dying of thirst. You get those at ten, and even the tiniest sips almost make the thirst bearable, and merely bearable is “good” to someone like you and me.

A teenage girl who was doing a school assignment asked me, one day, what I would do differently if I had my life to live over. I knew the answer immediately, of course, but I lied to her. The real answer was that I would have kept swimming out into the Atlantic that day on Wrightsville Beach when I was eight years old and nearly didn’t make it back to shore. I wish I hadn’t been such a strong swimmer. It would have saved me decades of pain. But I didn’t know that, then. And you know what, Zahra? I’m one of the lucky TRAST kids. Most of us never have the hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes to buy the therapy needed just to function normally day-to-day. I’m seven-eighths cured, Zahra, and if I still wish I had died young, what must life be like for most TRAST kids like us, eh?

Though only ten, you already knew some of what we TRASTs share. All of us know about hiding the marks from a very early age. In my case, I wore long pants and shirts, even in the brutal Virginia summers, to hide the bruises, welts, and burns. Bruises on my face and lumps on my head could be explained away by boyness and the things boys bump into. Luckily, most parents of TRASTs try to avoid the visible places when they haven’t completely lost it, so I only had to explain away the really egregious stuff maybe once a month or so. I could hide the rest.

It must have been tougher for you, being a girl and not having but one leg. Did you use your deafness as an excuse? Did you say you didn’t hear that bicyclist behind you and that was why you got hit and knocked down? Did you pretend that your prosthetic leg made you clumsy at everything so that the bruises you got from being such a klutz would seem more believable? However you handled it, I’m sure it was clever. We TRASTs get to be accomplished liars. The thing we’re most afraid of is that people will find out how bad we are to deserve such treatment from the people who love us most. We get really, really good at hiding that badness.

What you didn’t know is what you were in for had you lived, so I’ll fill you in on that. At around 11 years old, your peers would have started to look around to try to figure how they measured up against each other. They’d have started playing dominance games, and the first people they’d have looked to dominate are those who were clearly weaker than they. I don’t mean those who were physically weaker, or even intellectually weaker; I mean those who would be easily hurt by meanness on their parts. We TRASTs have absolutely no defense against that sort of thing. We’re already convinced that there is something fundamentally wrong with us, Zahra, so we readily accept it when our peers tell us we’re ugly, stupid, malodorous, slow, weak … well, any and all pejoratives will hurt us. We can’t laugh it off, because we believe it to be true. In your case, you probably would have been called a cripple, and kids would have taken advantage of your deafness in a number of ways to humiliate you. In many cases, teachers might even have reinforced that kind of behavior among your peers. That’s a pretty common thing, you know.

You would have had no safe place to hide from this new torture, and no one to talk to. Your kind of parents would have blamed you for the way you were treated by other children, and that would just have reinforced your feelings of fundamental worthlessness. Of course, the home beatings would have continued, and they would have gotten worse and worse as your pain tolerance improved. That’s another thing about us TRASTs. We can endure a lot of pain. To this day, I’ll find amazing bruises on my body and have no idea how I got them. I just don’t notice physical pain. Parent like yours will beat and beat and beat until they see signs of substantial agony, so your early death spared you that.

Being a girl, you would have turned to makeup, eventually, to cover the bruises. You still would have been ridiculed for them, of course, but the makeup would have hidden some. You probably would have worn foundation every day so that no one would notice on those days when you really needed your concealer. Other girls’ parents would have looked askance at you for wearing so much makeup. It’s possible that, if you had been lucky enough to make a friend (unlikely), her mother would have discouraged the relationship. You might have gotten an undeserved reputation. Who knows? It wouldn’t be at all uncommon for someone like you to look for the slightest kindness from boys, trying to fill your loveless life. You might have become every boys’ sexual partner, and even knowing that they called you a slut, cum dumpster, and whore behind your back — and made much of having sex with a one-legged girl — this might have seemed an acceptable trade-off to you. Even the fact that the girls would have hated you even more than they already did might have seemed better than being utterly alone.

If you’re like me, you would have found a way to stop the beatings at around 16 or so. By that time, you would have been able to just stand there and take it without making a sound, no matter how hard they hit or what instrument they used. I used to just stare at my parents while they were belting me, which unnerved them. There was no pleasure in it for them, anymore, so they stopped. If you were being raped, then that might have gone on. I was lucky. My mother stopped raping me when I was around four or five, but girls are often raped for much longer than that. You might have run away, though your one leg and deafness might have made that difficult, or even impossible. If you had run away, you would have most likely ended up on the streets as a curious plaything for your clients.

Zahra, even if you had gotten amazingly lucky and managed to reach adulthood by becoming invisible in school, blending into the background so thoroughly that no one even knew you were there and avoiding much of the ridicule, your life would still have been extremely difficult. First, you would have PTSD, and I’m not talking about the country-club, over-diagnosed PTSD that’s so popular these days. I’m talking about the real thing. You would have been nervous all the time because you would have trusted no one. Having never had a safe place to go, you would have never felt safe. You would always have been on guard. You would have felt distanced from others, and have had a great deal of trouble ever feeling anything but the most tepid sort of joy or love. On occasion, something resembling what happened to you would have cropped up in your life, and you would have become physically unable to function, throwing up, trembling, or even losing control of your body as your head felt like it exploded.

You would also have hated yourself, Zahra, because you would have been convinced, deep, deep down inside yourself where only years and years of excavation could get at it, that you were bad, inferior, not worthy of living. You would have wanted to die, and you might have tried to kill yourself. If you had continued to live, it most likely would have been a sort of fearful, gray, quarter life more like Purgatory than life.

Worst of all, though, Zahra, might be the fact that you would have seen what others don’t — know what others don’t. We TRASTs know what people pretend to be, and what people really are. It would some day have occurred to you that what your parents did to you was very, very wrong. If you were lucky, you might even have discovered, intellectually, that the way you felt about yourself was inaccurate. It wouldn’t have done you any real good, of course, since torture at such an early age rewires the brain in ways that mere intellect can do little to alter, but the realization would still have changed your outlook on people.

It would have occurred to you that no one ever bothered to help you. You were in a very church-going part of North Carolina, and it’s quite possible that you and your family attended church regularly. That’s the way it was for me. How many of those Jesus-praising Christians stepped in to help you, Zahra? About as many as helped me? None? How many physicians, nurses, teachers, and the like helped you? Social workers? Extended family? Neighbors?


You would have grown up, Zahra, eventually realizing, like the rest of us TRASTs, that human beings make a great show of caring for other human beings, while in the end, they care very little. They don’t even care enough for children to raise a finger in their defense. You can see them on TV and read about them now in the news or in the comments sections of their on-line news sources. They shake their heads about what happened to you. They tsk tsk. But where were they when you needed them? I can tell you where, Zahra. They felt your life, your well-being, your right to grow up whole, your unimaginable agony, was less important than the inconvenience they would face by picking up the phone and calling the authorities.

It’s who they are, Zahra. It’s who people are, dear one.

And so, from someone who really cares about you, Zahra, who isn’t mouthing platitudes and who isn’t shocked, just shocked, by the short life you lived, I’m glad you’re dead. You’ve been spared an infinite amount of suffering. Until the day when people become who they pretend to be, all we fellow TRASTs can do is wave goodbye to you, give a smile, blow you a kiss, and wish we had been so lucky.

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20 replies »

  1. No.

    You have the right to wish yourself dead. Not her.

    She was ten, not forty or fifty or sixty.

    Someone might still have intervened. People do.
    She might have run away. People do.
    She might have told someone, finally. People do.
    She might have grown up, moved out, lived in hell for a year or ten or twenty and then she might have found whatever it is in some people that lets them seek peace. People do. TRASTs do. Not many, maybe, but some.
    She might have found some reason to hope. People do that, too – terribly scarred, damaged and broken people, every now and then, get up. Go on. Hope again.
    She might not have navigated her adult life well or simply, but she’d have had the chance to try.
    She might not have lived a joyous life, an easy life or a peaceful life. But she might have found enough of those things to make it worth going on. People do. I’ve seen them.

    All of these possibilities have one prerequisite. Being alive.

    You have no real idea of “what people are.” You only understand the worst they can be. She might have learned differently.

    I hope you find some peace – but I also hope you don’t truly wish your despair on anyone else. Especially a child.

  2. JS didn’t wish despair on the kid. The kid lived in it. Possibilities are all very nice, but pain is real, now. Ever begged for death? I have.

    As for Hope, hope is shit. Hope is what keeps people in the crucible, still in pain. Hope wasn’t the best thing to come out of Pandora’s box, it was the worst thing, because it made people bear all the other things.

    Screw hope. Have a goddamn plan.

    • Sometimes I can identify with a particular brand of pain. Other times I don’t have the experience needed to fully get it, but I can perhaps come close to imagining. Other times I can’t even get on the same planet with it.

      All I can do here is acknowledge how much it must have cost to write this piece. I hope it made its way to someone who needed it today.

  3. I read your legitimate pain and suffering. Neither I, nor anyone else can experience your pain, only you can experience the pain you have felt and feel. I think it is wrong to produce a case of a 10 year old’s death to make the point that pain and savagery happen in homes and other human gatherings every day. I myself have suffered trauma to the psyche and sensibilities beyond what imagination can accomodate. It will be a challenge of suffering for as long as I live. I have survived for 40 years. Survived.
    For those who despair of finding decency and compassion is surrendering to the DARK. And, yes, I know how dark it can get.
    People want to do more than survive, we all do. We seek kindness knowing that many are not kind. I look for goodness among beings, I know from bitter experience, are capable of being anything other than good. The journey is long and it should be easier—–but it is not easy and it will never be easy. What others assume in daily existence is a struggle for some and it is what we all seek in one fashion or another and that is peace. Peace within oneself peace within our environment and peace of mind; peace within one’s soul.
    I learned that survival can be enough to see us through some very hard times. One might think, “I must struggle—-just to survive? My reply would be….only if you want to survive.” Life is precious and death seems horrible. Death is horrifying to most sane beings, and more especially it makes life even more important.
    Dear Fellow Being, I am diminished by my reading of your suffering, but I disagree so strongly on congratulating a death of a child. Old dogs and small animals, and children are sometimes to me the one image of God to hold onto. I too have operated where God was not.
    I will not despair of finding goodness in humans and human nature. I have experienced some incredibly passionate and loving and remarkable beings. I believe, even with evidence to the contrary, that life is precious and should be held as precious and ultimately we are all the final arbitor and the keepers of our own souls. I guard mine closely, but I am so very not immune to love. When I have experienced it, felt it, and see it displayed in others. Makes me glad I came to this life. Was the pain worth it? Only one person can answer that for each of us.

  4. Dear JS, Thank you for sharing your feelings. What you went through hurts my heart. The abuse I endured was not nearly as severe as yours was, and it stopped at 14 when I finally stood up for myself. I understand what you are saying. It is a fight to feel any self-worth, to be confident and smile. People do detect that weakness in you and dig at it until it hurts all over again, but it hurts deeper than even they know.

    However, since I have become an adult, I now realize I didn’t deserve the treatment I received as a child. I realize that my parents were sick in the head. I realize that I have this weakness inside that people will take advantage of. And because I know these things, I also know that I am now the one who is responsible for my own happiness. I can’t control the meanness in other people, but I can only control how I react to it. I can even shake my head and feel sad to a point that these people are so unhappy in their lives that they feel they have to hurt others. But then I can move on. There are too many good people to give my thoughts to than to allow these mean people to take up my thoughts.

    I can find things to smile about. I can love, and there are many good people in this world to love. Life is not hopeless unless you give up hope. You have to give love to those who deserve your love. Give your love to an innocent child, to a feeble old person, to a pitiful poor person, to another sad or lonely person. Love them and give to them, and it will come back to you…maybe not from the one you gave it to…but it will come back.

  5. You kind of piss me off. You have issues and so many of us do, but you kind of seem like you are hitching your wagon to a tragedy that’s way worse than your own. Holy fuck I lived through some abuse and it set me back. My hubby lived through worse. I don’t need to go into it but you should know that you need to go on. What others made you is not what you are anymore. The sympathy that you generate is worthless for you to be a better person.

  6. Actually, Ian, yes I have. And I have some very similar experiences in my childhood and adulthood, along with a couple of lifelong mental illnesses which land me in the emergency room fairly regularly begging for painkillers for the physical effects… AND the same form of PTSD. So first of all, can the know-it-all crap unless you really know whom you’re talking to.

    But you’re right. He didn’t wish despair on this child; he assumed it would be her inevitable fate. That’s a sign of his own pathology – the inability to comprehend human decency. It’s sad, it’s tragic and it’s simply wrong. People are basically evil and you have no chance of a decent life? Yes, that’s what someone in hell needs to hear. Hopefully no one in a comparable crisis reads this, ever. Or any of the thousands and thousands of loving, caring people who make it their BUSINESS to intervene… who take down license numbers and call CPS and notice long sleeves in summer and bruises under makeup. People like me, who did it themselves and know what to look for. People I love and cherish, who devote their lives to child welfare.

    So, Ian, maybe I used the wrong word. Sorry. Not. I usually applaud openness about mental health issues. But somehow, I think a paean to despair which indicts the entire human race as evil and uncaring (and by the way, poster, does that include your own children? They’re part of this species, too) is particularly noble or useful… Especially one predicated on the assumption that a ten-year-old girl is better off dead.

    One last thing – I happen to know how wildly understated Bobbie (above) is being, and the unimaginable trauma later on that he’s leaving out. It’s not my place to out him, and I love and respect him him too much to ever even think of it. Just wanted to say he’s one of the most courageous people I’ve ever met, and I mean real courage. The kind that allows you to live in hell for decades and still believe in love.

  7. So Ian-If you’ve begged for death, and if hope is for shit because it allows people to bear up under tragic circumstances, why aren’t you dead? Begged for death? No need to beg-you can grant that wish all by yourself. “Oh , I have a plan. I don’t need that useless hope.” How about the next time in your life that something goes so badly wrong that you can’t affect it? When, say, a loved one is badly injured, and whether they live or die is out of your hands. Since you’ll apparently dismiss all hope, and a plan won’t do shit, can we expect you to blow your brains out then? Or just write off the loved one?

    O’Brien- That was an absolutely disgusting post from beginning to end. You seem to have some weird backward-ass narcissistic urge to polish and buff and shine up the details of your miserable life so that it looks just perfectly horrible when you get an opportunity like this to whip them out and show them off. Seven-eighths cured? Make it a sixteenth. You’re not omniscient. You have absolutely no idea what this girl’s life was destined to be. For all you know, her primary abusers could have been hit by a fucking bus. Or not. Things may have been awful for a long time. But your post reads like some sort of grotesque wish that she definitely NOT get to have it better than you did, and I think that reflects just how little progress you’ve really made in some areas.
    Wish that you had been so lucky? As to die? Again, it’s not like you missed your one shot. If you’re so regretful, you can whip up something with a few lengths of chain, some padlocks, four or five gallon jugs full of gravel, and the closest swimming pool. However, I suspect that line was strictly for dramatic effect, or you wouldn’t be around.
    I realize that the audience for your post is dead, but one day you may be talking to a living person in a similar situation. If you can’t bring yourself to tell them there’s a possibility of improvement, then at least try to muster the decency to shut the fuck up, and not vomit this garbage on their heads. Plenty of children already off themselves without your assistance.

  8. Now that responses are at a standstill, I’d like to add a few notes on the above.

    The impulse to write this came from four sources: the first was my long-standing discomfort with the word “abuse” to describe what happens to children when they are raped, tortured, and emotionally stripped. To me, “abuse” is one of those words used to minimize the impact and horror of what actually happened. I think it might have been Korzybski who pointed out that the wider the number of nouns and verbs a word can cover, the smaller its impact. It’s why those who commit, say, a murder will call what they did a “mistake.” Yes, it’s technically a mistake, I suppose, but a mistake can also refer to a typographical error. Equating a serious crime with a typographical error is a semantic trick used to cause the listener to put that crime into the same mental category as a typographical error (After all, we all make mistakes, right?). Applying the word “abuse” to what happens to children, or to spouses for that matter, seems to be society’s way of insulating itself from reality, and insulating oneself, I believe, leads to too tepid reactions to the reality. One can “abuse a privilege” by wearing jeans to work instead of khakis, or “abuse a machine” by not changing the oil filter often enough. I think victims of violence deserve a better word(s).

    The second impetus came from reading comments on stories about Zahra. The vast majority seemed to be of the “tsk tsk” variety, instead of voicing the outrage I think Zahra, and other children like her, deserve. I thought those people, and those who think like them, could use a dash of cold water in the face over the reality of what actually happened, and happens, to children every second in this country.

    Those two reasons, alone, would have been enough to write what I did, but there were two others. I’ll address them at the end.

    I started writing about the abuse and tsk-tsk issue in a third-person, measured way. Around eight paragraphs in, though, I realized that I simply had no words that would convey the horror or reach anyone in the gut where people need to be reached. I tried tying what happened to Zahra, and kids like her, to what happens in a physical torture chamber with branding irons, thumbscrews, and the like, and how there are few people, subjected to that kind of torture, who wouldn’t gladly die to escape it. I realized though, that that approach still fell short.

    So, I took an angle that I thought would outrage some enough to read what I had to say and, for at least a few, to internalize it enough that, someday, if faced with seeing a kid who needed help, they might offer it. I’m sure there are more brilliant approaches out there, but the only one I could think of was to wish Zahra death as a way to escape both the immediate and long-term realities of being a tortured, raped, and emotionally stripped child (BTW, I don’t know that Zahra was raped, but parents who visit this sort of horror on children are almost always sexually weird, so I think it’s a good bet. Emotional stripping is a given.) I thought the idea that death would be preferable to the torture she endured, and would have endured long past childhood, had she lived, might just get through to a few people. It did for some, and the reactions ran pretty much as I expected — everything from understanding where I was going and why I wrote it the way I did (Sam) to an invitation to me, and perhaps all adult survivors of child torture, rape, and emotional stripping who have considered suicide (pretty much all of us, really), to go ahead and kill myself/ourselves.

    What has surprised me, though, is how few people understood the rhetorical technique. Or perhaps those who got it simply didn’t respond. I hope that’s the case.

    There were two other reasons to write this. One is that I wanted those who might read it, who are going through, or have gone through, this horror to understand that there are people out there like me who get it, and who came through it 7/8 cured (I’m like the guy who now walks with a small limp, but remembers what it was like to be broken and bed-ridden, never sure he would walk again). Yes, I had the financial resources to pull that off, but there may be other ways. I also wanted to let any survivors who might read know that they are not bad, not defective, that their peers aren’t attacking them because there is anything fundamentally wrong with them, but because they are defenseless. Thank you, Sam, for picking up on this right away.

    The final reason to write this wasn’t a conscious one, but it was there, nevertheless. There are some people who know about my background, and one or two read this blog. It took decades to overcome the shame enough to let anyone know, and another decade and a half, I guess, to write something like this. This is sort of a coming out thing for me. For those of you who have written me privately, I thank you for your thoughts. It’s a big step for me. I’m surprised at how hard it was to make it.

    For those who felt brutalized by what I wrote, I can’t apologize. I wanted it to be brutal enough to cause action — at least in a few people.

    Thanks to all for listening.


  9. Oh, I think everyone understood the rhetorical technique – at least the commenters here. I know two of them. They are highly intelligent, extremely empathetic, widely read and very well-versed in walking the daily razor blade of severe mental illness caused by abuse and trauma. Collectively, we’ve spent over eighty years on the mental “health” merry-go-round. We’ll never get off.

    From your last comment, I’m afraid that you still don’t understand how much this essay reveals about the author. As often happens, with usually interesting and often wrenchingly sad side effects, the “technique” overpowers the intended message. Instead of gut-level understanding and a new perspective on the suffering all around us, you’ve created another exploitation of this one particular child… and the very, very strong impression is that it’s in the service of your own pain, not hers. The presumption that she was raped, for example, is terribly telling. Did you truly believe that her story needed your embellishment? Her pain wasn’t enough, somehow, to make your point?

    No one reads his or her own work objectively. Sometimes our well-intentioned efforts just don’t have the effect we intend.

    So I’m afraid we do get it, JS. Speaking only for myself, I wish I didn’t. I know it’s easier to tell yourself we’re all a bunch of knee-jerk idiots who can’t comprehend your subtlety, but it’s just not true. We get your intention, we get your technique and we get just how distorted the judgment is which produced this piece. You may have created a shock effect, but a helpful one? Something which would spur people to action? No. We don’t feel brutalized at all, by the way. Pity, yes. Empathy for YOU. And there’s the problem.

    Because I think that’s what the “invitation to off yourself” is really about… at least, I hope so. Your own sickness is so overwhelming here that by the end, who remembers that child at the beginning? And adding unsubstantiated details to her actual hell in order to make your point stronger? I don’t know if you can grasp how misguided, unnecessary and completely not about her that was… as if a little research, a little time spent articulating clearly and simply what we DO know about her daily life wouldn’t have been enough and far, far better. Or your own experience. Less histrionic, more matter-of-fact – because on a purely literary level, horror is almost always most effective plain and simple.

    Again, I hope you find some kind of peace, and eventually, a better way to reach out.

  10. Thank you for your comments, “Still Here.”

    I believe you’re right about some things you read, and wrong about others. Indeed, I did want people to understand, on a gut level, just what the victims of extreme childhood trauma experience. I took the personal approach to do that, because I didn’t think the third-person approach worked very well (as I’ve said). And you’re also right that it’s not about Zahra, but about all victims of this sort of thing. Zahra is just the latest. Is it “in the service of my own pain?” That’s an interesting observation, but perhaps irrelevant. Who among us doesn’t feel the greatest empathy for those they understand on the deepest level? Who among us doesn’t write from his or her own experience? If my pain was very much like the pain of others, then I can give tongue to it, in some small way, for all of us. I could not hope to do that by simply trying to imagine things.

    If I had it to write it over again, I think I would have tried to find a way to make it clearer that the reason for suicide is to avoid the decades of extreme pain, and not the minor pain that exists (for me, anyway) on the other side. Truly, if someone had really asked me “what I would do differently,” I don’t know the answer. What would a victim of extreme physical torture for many years say if asked that question after the torture was done? Would she live through it again, knowing it was possible to come out the other side? Most of the insights you gleaned are not about my “own sickness” that is, but about the sickness, and brutalization, that was. I wrote from the perspective of 15 to 45 years ago, but there are those who are still stuck in that private hell in their 90s. Would I live through that again if given the choice not to? I have no clue, but the point I was trying to make is that it’s the kind of torture that may be worse than death. I don’t think a lot of people get that.

    I can assure you that I do understand what this essay reveals both about me now and the me that was. I ran it by two people before sending it to this blog, including a psychologist, and decided that what it reveals, embarrassing as it is, might still be of some use to someone, even as it surfaces feelings of contempt in others. I’ll live with that. No matter what we write, it reveals something about us. For instance, I don’t think you or anyone else responding here is a “knee-jerk idiot,” and I have doubts that what I wrote would make many others respond that way. And if you don’t feel brutalized, another person who responded to what I wrote did. And I believe that “pity” and “empathy” are two entirely different things, which you don’t appear to. Your response tells me a bit about you, as it should. It makes me like you more. I believe this is a good thing.

    As for finding a “better way to reach out,” we’ll just disagree about this. I don’t think most people get it, and the gentle ways don’t seem to work very well. At least, they don’t seem to work for a substantial number of people. Perhaps it made no impact on you, but it might have had the desired effect on others. If not, then I failed, but maybe someone else will learn from my mistakes and craft something that does work. If horror, “plain and simple,” is the best way to go, then maybe someone will react to what I wrote by going in that direction — a direction I freely admit I haven’t the skills to pursue. I’d be pleased if you took a crack at it.

    BTW, are you posting as both “Still Here” and “Disgusted”? No problem if you are. The writing seems similar.

    • “Still Here” and “Disgusted” are not the same person – the IP addresses, assuming they’re not spoofed, are from different parts of the country.

  11. No, we’re not the same people – why on earth would that be? But there’s a very logical reason we sound like each other. 🙂

  12. I found the rhetorical technique powerful…the sort of power that a subject like this requires. Maybe i’m too cynical, but i don’t see how “it will be ok somehow” cuts it on this topic. (one which i, thankfully, have no personal experience)

    What i don’t understand is the anger pointed towards the author, who offered an unfortunately well-formed opinion and exposed his own horrors for all the world to see. Yes, he tied Zahara’s story to his own; again, that’s a rhetorical technique. He never said that he was going to give us a factual account of Zahara’s story. It was clear from the first paragraph that this would be as much about JS as it would be about Zahara. He never said that everyone should hope for her death. (I suppose that i should disclose that i know JS, not terribly well, but i do. I seriously doubt that he hopes she’s dead in the way he’s being accused.)

    In any case, what are the real chances that Zahara would have been helped, lifted from the hellish pain and misery she’s probably known all her life…i.e. only, ever known? Failing that, i agree with JS completely. At least she can be at peace in death.

    Finally, the amount of courage it must have taken to write and publish this astounds me.

  13. Belated thanks for sharing, JSO. As a student of psychohistory — and a human being — this story meant a lot to me.

  14. I know a woman who thinks her neighbor might be torturing her child.

    We want to help but we don’t know how and we’re afraid of making it worse.

    The cover is that the child suffers from delusions..

    I dont want to post too many details because I’m afraid she might be reading up on the topic, stumble upon this, recognize the details and realize that the story she told my friend wasn’t swallowed, so if the blogger could contact me please, I would appreciate it.

    I understand we’re supposed to let child welfare handle it, but i would like to know what the child wants, if you’re willing to provide some insight, please.

  15. First of all, you guys have suffered enough already…. Even if you don’t agree with the blogger’s presentation of his feelings, there is obviously a thread of sincerity that runs through it and maybe he wrote it for her or maybe he wrote it for him or maybe he wrote it for all of you but he did write it from the heart and let’s not ridicule someone for expressing the way they feel, whether or not we believe his feelings are “right”.

    He has earned his feelings, please respect his struggle.
    If you do not like the presentation, rather than berating him for his feelings, and telling him to find another way to deal with his pain, we can lead each other by example and show another way, first by allowing everyone to be the person that they should be allowed to be…


    It’s ok to have different opinions, that’s what makes all of us so interesting.
    good, bad, ugly, wrong or right …. what do we really know anyway ?


    I know this topic is a bit old but I’m still hoping to get some advice:

    I have not heard from the blogger. I cannot do anything because I do not even know where they live, but I have been trying to stress upon my friend that she cannot ignore it. . . I recently saw the America’s Most Wanted Cold Case Files on Theresa Knorr and I really couldn’t sleep for a week. It’s been 2 months and I still get flashbacks from it.

    My friend told me about her neighbor about a month ago…. I want her to do something but it just seems the authorities are always a disappointment in really bad situations so I was thinking maybe she could call the school and speak to the 3rd grade guidance counselor ? Theresa Knorr often told nurses and counselors that her daughters suffered from delusions but if there were statements from a neighbor on file with the school, that would give the girl credibility if she ever got the nerve to say anything.

    I think that action will be more acceptable to my friend than calling the police because it’s less intrusive. If anyone has adviice please email me… I’m not trying to be an idiot but I don’t have any experience dealing with something like this and I don’t want to make things worse for the girl. Unfortunately, success stories are not easy to come by.

  16. I’ve heard from the blogger, Thank You to whoever told him about my post, he had stopped checking the comments.