On Child Abuse: “The Intentions of Wolves”


this piece of art, “breathe,” was created by loish

6. TIN ROOFS SPLIT THE SKY LIKE MOUNTAINS. The spring of a summer door would creak when stretched, as rust spreads when left unchecked. The gap in the wire fence was never discussed

5. Questions from visitors regarding the fence deflated conversations. Topics were then rerouted by the parent, such as an investigation on whose boots had sunk in the mud behind the pines, near a canister of roaches. The children were tense during these reroutes as though a house of cards was shivering with laughter.

4. Others addressed it with polite warning, as when a police officer flashes their lights. The parent would return from these talks to nod at children on staircases, as though the neighbouring guests of the same hotel.

Or, they were picked up.

“I love you, you know that?

3. Morning silences balanced these night enthusiasms. The children were well-aware of the emotional see-saw and did their best to avoid existing as the balance. Gaps in the fence were large enough that you could fit if you got down on your knees or if you were dragged through on your back. Of course visitors with gaps in their fences shared great laughs in our house.

2. Sometimes, deer would approach the back windows that faced the woods. You’d turn from the TV, and there would be two, three deer, spotted white, watching you. They would approach me in the yard. There we’d stand, looking at the other. There was tension in the lines of their muscled haunches. Then the door might creak open and my dog might run them back toward the pines. Their white tails would flip over the field’s weeds, never tripping over objects that were entombed in the grass, close but never caught by the dog.

1. You’d see them on the side of roads, too, with their necks twisted: bodies toward the road, eyes to the trees. In the winter, their blood spattered over snow-covered roads. In the summer, the warm liquid poured out to fill in creases of the cement.


1. I lived in this house for ten years. There wasn’t a fence, but the driveway was made of gravel. As many people know, surviving one of these houses often means leaving. The borders of a driveway give promise to understand who one is or can become without the dynamic of the abused and the abuser. Crossing the border at the end of the lane is often complicated by the fact the attacked is told to be lying, where the abusive parent may discount the uncomfortable truths being shared through threats, a defensiveness which underlines their guilt and shock at the inconvenient possibilities of your voice.

2. Yes, the deer would actually come up to our windows. Half of our house faced a forest, and they’d cross the long weeds to stand on our stone patio and look inside our living room.

3. I wonder if a deer’s ears are like a dog’s ears, and if they could hear through the windows.

4. When I’d see one strung up in a friend’s garage, leaking blood into a bucket, I was perhaps more affected, as though I’d lost a witness who could testify in a case I never wanted to attend.

5. Abusers are insulated by the glorification of keeping family secrets and a culture of stoicism in Ontario. My masculinity amplified this silence and abusive power relies on a special status treatment of silence. If attacked on the street, most people would call the police partially to prevent others from being attacked.*

4. I cannot speak for other members of my family. 

3. It is often this inability to share and process trauma with strangers or friends that will prompt people to become violent later on to cope with feelings of vulnerability. The saying goes, “although not all children who were abused grow up to become abusers, the vast majority of those who abuse were abused as children.”My ability to move from that tendency involves a lot of work and privileges.

4. It is the responsibility of the violent to adopt methods of coping with stress or trauma that do not require the destruction of the minds and bodies of those around them. 

3. Processes of accountability with violent parents require the parent to acknowledge that violence occurred. As acknowledging abuse is acknowledging ‘imperfection,’ tactful rearrangements of memory are often made to lighten the case. (See: ‘it wasn’t my intention’ defenses of racism.) 

2. No person should be shamed for choosing to start such a process with someone who has been violent to them. 

1. No person whose survival is in spite of the attempts of a parent should be blamed for walking away from that person. Shaming this individual should be taken as seriously as shaming someone who avoids snakes because they have been bitten by snakes. 

2. No person exists to be the emotional or physical punching bag for another person to deal with their issues, whatever the complex histories of that person.

1. Those who rush to support the ‘loving’ defense of abuse (“but they love them!”) often reveal the blades in their own hands.

2. There is no ‘complete’ escape from the house that influenced so much of who I am and how I’m writing to you today. 

2. You don’t arrive at zero during a process of rewiring. It’s instead some hybrid form which works to pivot from a new set of values. Gravel is not asphalt and even asphalt splits depending on the heat. Delaying the desire for change and accountability makes sense if it is antagonistic to one’s mental health. Neurologist Gabor Maté convincingly argues that rewiring processes can begin at any age, contrary to the whole old dogs saying.

1. Our bedrooms were on the top floor of the log house. Sleeping under a tin roof meant that you could hear every drop of the rain. The thousands of sounds felt like blankets at night, reminding you how close you were to being outside.

The intentions of wolves

From the author:

“The choice to share my story was influenced by a recent reading by poet Jessica Bebenek, as well as a November reading by Kalale Dalton-Lutale.

The piece of art, “breathe,” was created by loish.

*What the criminal justice system chooses to do with violent offenders is certainly in need of radical change, however the existence of the impulse to prevent violence through accountability is significant.

Further reading: Maté, Gabor. In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts.

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