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Damage to Children Can't Be Undone

October 12, 2002

Re "Young Brains Shaped by Abuse," Opinion, Oct. 6: Deborah Blum's analysis of the lingering impact of child abuse, as illustrated by the horrendous behavior of Martha Toogood's mother on Sept. 13, affirmed my belief that some of the damage inflicted on children simply cannot be undone. In this case, I have no reason to believe that Madelyne Toogood will not continue to victimize her child. When the woman made her appearances on every media outlet that would give her a forum, she submitted that she had made "a mistake" and wasn't a monster.

No, dear Mrs. T--a mistake is when you write the wrong date on a check. Unless and until you understand that what you did was wrong, harmful and inexcusable and requires professional intervention, your little girl doesn't have a chance to grow up without the emotional scars that will last a lifetime.

As Blum points out, she will love you because you're the only mother she has, but that love will be undeserved as long as you call your abusive behavior "a mistake."

Barbara H. Bergen

Los Angeles


Blum is right that Martha Toogood was being shockingly abused by her mother and probably needed to be placed in foster care. However, her wish is naive that Martha has now been given "a break from home" and can now have "a chance for some silly, happy moments." Any child, abused or not, is traumatized by being wrenched away from all that she knows. As psychologist Harry Harlow's research shows, children long to be with their parents, even when their parents are abusive. Many foster parents are loving and kind. Yet the additional havoc such placement wreaks in the psyche of a child cannot be ignored.

Catherine Fuller


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