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Monday, February 11, 2008

Children: Parental Abuse

Nixzmary Brown photo from The Gothamist

If you live in or around New York, you've probably heard the story of Nixzmary Brown, whose parents are currently on trial for her murder. Well, her mother and stepfather, to be more accurate.

If you're a sensitive soul, please don't read any further. Nixzmary's story is the best argument in the world for mandatory reversible sterilization of people under the age of 30.

Nixzmary Brown was seven years old when she died. She weighed 36lb at her death. According to an article in the New York Times (login required), that is the average weight of a child half Nixzmary's age. She lived with her mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, her mother's current partner, her stepfather Cesar Rodriguez, and her five siblings in an apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant. She was beaten, starved, tied up in a room by herself, forced to use a litterbox as a toilet.

Finally, on or around 10 or 11 January 2006, she took a container of pudding which her stepfather said she had no right to take. So he hit her in the head, causing a blood clot on her brain. He then stripped her naked, held her head under a running cold water faucet (in midwinter!). Then he dragged the wet, injured child to her lockup and threw her violently on the floor as she moaned in pain.

We are sympathetic to the plight of people with young children. We understand quite well that children can be really really annoying when a parent is tired, overworked, poor, stressed out. We understand that there are times when a parent contemplates violence towards their own child (and any parent who says they never have is lying through their teeth or rich enough to afford a nanny and doesn't spend enough time with the kid to get annoyed).

But we have no sympathy for the man who beat this child to death. And no sympathy for her mother who stood by and watched and did not try to protect her child.

And here's why we favour mandatory reversible sterilization for women and men under the age of 30: The mother and stepfather of this child are both 27 years old. They had six children under the age of 10 years; and the mother had been recently pregnant (again??!!) and suffered a miscarriage for which she blamed her now-dead daughter.

It's difficult enough for two adults to deal with a single child. When they outnumber you, the chances of a stressed-out parent losing control increase with each additional child. Add to the mix a lack of education, poverty, ignorance, the worst aspects of religion, a history of domestic violence and abuse in both parents' background, lack of a family or community support network, and the fact that some of the children are not biologically related to the father, and you have nothing short of a toxic stew.

Add to that a mother recently pregnant who has suffered a miscarriage, and whose body is flooded with the hormones that can make a woman crazy. And throw in the loss of the sole breadwinner's job:
[...] three days before Christmas, Mr. Rodriguez said, he was fired from his job as a security guard and could not buy the children presents. Broke, and with bills piling up, he would stay home with the children.

"I just felt like everything was closing in," he said.
Detective Joseph Bello, assigned to the case, describes the child's body:
"She was severely bruised, a purple tint covered almost her whole body."
The Gothamist goes on to describe her:
Her half-opened eyes were blackened." Her body also had "ugly cuts."
Note: Although one article claims Santiago and Rodriguez each had two children from a previous marriage, another claims that Ms. Santiago had four children by four different men. Which would make Mr. Rodriguez the father of only two of her children, the 18-month old and the 6-month-old boys. Although many alarm bells preceded Nixzmary Brown's death, few of them could be answered by a city overwhelmed by budget cuts, shortages of trained staff, overburdened caseworkers, and many victims needing help.

After their first visit, caseworkers decided that Ms. Santiago was overwhelmed by her six children. They believed they had persuaded her to return Nixzmary to school and closed the case[,...].

And where is the girl's biological father in all this? According to the Times, Nixzmary Brown's father is a Pakistani-American who gives his name as Mian. The mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, apparently does not know Mian's last name. According to the Village Voice, Nixzmary's biological father is one Abdurrahman Mian.
Last month, Mian, who had not seen Nixzmary when she was alive, stepped forward to announce that he will seek control of the little girl's estate, which could be worth millions of dollars thanks to lawsuits charging the city of New York with negligence. Revelations in the case prompted Mayor Mike Bloomberg to shake up the city's Administration for Children's Services.
My god, this is disgusting. What a vulture.

Carlos Batista, the father of Javier [last name unknown], Nixzaliz Santiago's 9-year-old son and Nixzmary Brown's older brother, has come forward to demand custody of his son and compensation from the agency charged with protecting the child and his siblings (the ACS, or Administration for Children's Services). Batista, who, like Nixzaliz Santiago, is a native of Puerto Rico, is a firefighter and says he is capable of giving his son a good home. He attributes his failure to stay in touch with his son over the past years to Ms. Santiago's attempts to keep him from his child.

Meanwhile the man who helped raise Nixzmary Brown and gave her his last name spoke to reporters yesterday. Edward Brown, who is the father of two of Nixzaliz Santiago's children, is seeking custody of his children. He, like many others who have heard or read this story, would like to kill Cesar Rodriguez. Unfortunately, killing Rodriguez will have no effect whatsoever on the next Nixzmary.

Note: Nixzaliz Santiago and Cesar Rodriguez are not being charged with first-degree murder in Nixzmary's death because
[...] the prosecution would have to prove both torture and that the defendants were enjoying the torture -- a nearly impossible legal standard that [the Brooklyn Assistant D.A.] believes should be changed.
If you can bear to look at it, some of the evidence presented in the trial of Cesar Rodriguez is available here. Nixzaliz Santiago, Nixzmary's mother, has a trial scheduled later this year.

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At 8:35 AM, Blogger s. douglas said...

As a former case manager/counselor (Although I never worked with the State), I can tell you those people are overwhelmed.

I was talking to a state worker one day, and I asked her how many clients she had, over 700.

To contrast,I had 15.

They also pay them nothing, and as a result they attract people straight out of school (Who are inexperienced) or people who didn't go to college at all.

In other words, the majority of the state case workers I dealt with didn't have a damn clue what they were doing. Yet, they have a tremendous amount of power.

Another problem is, once you are hired by the state, it is virtually impossible to lose your job.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger sgtg said...

Everything about this case makes my blood boil. Ultimately I blame the mothers (and I'm probably too harsh with that blame) for continuing to have children that they cannot afford and cannot care for. It fucking infuriates me. I know there is plenty of blame to go around but goddamnit women, use birth control!

At 9:51 AM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Fairlane, it's not just the power (we all lerve power) &mdash it's the tremendous amount of responsibility! Those poor people, with 700 cases to worry about, can't possibly have enough time to help them all. Yet when anything goes wrong, as it inevitably will and does &mdash they're to blame, and the survivor or their family sue the department and the fucking taxpayer pays. I suspect this sets up a tremendous negative resonance between the people and their government. That system must change.

SGTG, it made my blood boil too. It also made me very depressed. Yes, that stupid woman and her stupid religion are to blame. She split up with the kid's father because he wanted her to have an abortion. Then she blamed the kid for her miscarriage (with six fucking kids already, she shoulda been celebrating), and either beat the kid to death or allowed her husband to beat her kid to death. Sick, sick, sick.

At 7:57 PM, Blogger TruWomyn said...

It's truly unfair to attack the MOTHER. The husband was the one who caused the FATAL blow. We donot know the extent of the abuse that occured in this home. This mother may have been threatned and beaten herself. Cultural issues may have come into play. As a Latina Womyn, I have witnessed how mothers who have boyfriends that eventually become step fathers and allow these men to be the head of household and fear opposing their rules for fear of abandonment. Who's to blame for that? Cultural beliefs? Society? This woman made poor decisions, YES!, but she is also a victim of poverty, lack of education and familial support, depression, etc. We do not know her history. She just went through a traumatic event, a miscarriage. Its unfair to call her Stupid. What about our Latina grandmothers who had 8-10 children and also lived in poverty, are they stupid too. Ms. Santiago made poor choices but we do not know if she was a victim to her husband's abuse (Domestic Violence) and self esteem was lost. This woman had 6 children. We can just imagine the Stress that can come with that scenerio.
Why is it that she gets a LONGER sentence than the person who CAUSED the fatal blow? Some may argue that she did not come to her daughters aid, but this man caused her a Fatal blow to the child's head. . . Why did Ms. Santiago get a longer sentence 26yrs vs. 43yrs? Because she was the MOTHER? I'm sorry but that's Bullsh*t. I agree mother are AWESOME and sometimes irreplacable, but so are fathers. This man was a non-blood relative, HELLO!!!!! How dare he discipline the child in that manner regardless if the mother let him do it. He had no RIGHT! We need to stop putting so much responsibilty on MOTHERS and not on FATHERS. It should be equal. Hence the word PARENTS, they should both work and be held equally accountable in how they protect, nuture, educate and discipline children. Both! I find it quite ignorant and prejudice how Ms. Santiago was given a harsher sentence than her ex-husband simply because she was the MOTHER. I could accept a similar sentence, but 23 vs. 43?? Seriously! This is another way of oppressing this woman! Shame!


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