Some parents hate their children – an increasing number, if official child abuse statistics are the measure. They are likely if anything to understate the problem, taking no account of unreported cases.
Every year seems to set a new record. During the first six months of last year, 37,113 child abuse cases came to the attention of child consultation centers nationwide. Of those, 2,127 resulted in children being taken into emergency protective custody, topping 2,000 for the first time since such tabulations began seven years ago.
There are many partial explanations – parents stressed beyond endurance, parents who were themselves abused as children, parents who are mentally or physically ill, or battered by poverty, or sunk in despair of one kind or another. For abused children, life will seem a nightmare from which there is no awakening. Sometimes the story ends that way. Sometimes it ends more happily.
The following report is adapted from Shukan Josei (Jan 15-22).
Taiji Utagawa, at 52, never knew why his mother hated him so much. Was there even a reason? “Every day was a minefield. If I left food on my plate uneaten, I was beaten. If I ate everything on my plate, it’d be, ‘Pig! That’s why you’re so fat!’”
He grew up, naturally, timid and cringing. His father managed a factory of some kind in a working-class neighborhood of Tokyo. He paid no attention at all to the children, Taiji and his sister, older by three years.
“The only person who was ever kind to me was a woman I called ‘Ba-chan’ (granny). She worked at my father’s factory.” The magazine doesn’t explain how they came together, but Taiji said: “She’d listen to stories I’d make up for her – she seemed to enjoy them.”
His mother was good-looking and had boyfriends. “One day father came home and started pumping me about mother’s affairs. I said I knew nothing. He beat me, punched me, kicked me, grabbed me and hanged me upside down. I broke down and told him what I knew. Afterwards mother screamed at me, ‘I’ll never trust you again.’” He was nine at the time.
Taiji spent a year at a clinic for obese children. He came home to find his parents divorced.
Abuse then became torture. His mother beat him, burned his palms with cigarette butts, forced him to live in a storage closet outside on the veranda. Once, she stabbed him with a kitchen knife. He was in sixth grade, and came to school all bloody. The teacher asked what had happened. Taiji muttered something about hurting himself while playing. The school called an ambulance. The cut needed five stitches. The school investigated no further. “There was no one to turn to for help. The despair I felt is indescribable.”
He left home at 17, having quit senior high school before graduation. “There was nothing for me to do but die.”
At this juncture, for possibly the first time in his life, he had a stroke of luck – a chance meeting with a former employee of his father’s, from whom he learned that his beloved “Ba-chan,” now a dim memory, was seriously ill. He went to see her. She welcomed him with pleasure. As he had as a child, he began making up stories for her, to make her laugh. He said, “I work at a pig farm and I feel right at home, a pig among pigs.”
Ba-chan didn’t laugh, didn’t smile. She looked him directly in the eyes and said gravely, “Repeat after me: ‘I am not a pig!’”
He couldn’t say it at first. He had never said or thought anything positive about himself. He got the words out at last, sobbing as he had never sobbed before. “From that day on,” he says, “I began to think about my future.”
He finished high school via correspondence course, and got into drawing. He found it came naturally to him, and he had a lot to express. His manga about surviving child abuse caught attention. He became known.
In November, a movie based on his work appeared, titled “Hahasan wa donna ni boku wo kirai de mo” (“No Matter How Much My Mom Hates Me”).
His mother’s fate was less fortunate. She remarried a man who soon died, saddling her with massive debts. Taiji did what he could to help her. Despair finally overcame her altogether. She drowned herself© Japan Today