2.22.2008

an open letter to steve wilkos

hi steve,

i rarely get a chance to watch the show, but i remember you from your years on jerry springer. usually i appreciate the way you confront folks with difficult questions, but i have to call you out on this one.

it's painfully obvious that alicia abraham is not mentally well. she behaves like someone with severe depression, maybe a personality disorder.

going after her as you would, say, an abusive spouse, is ineffective. it's something of a feel-good moment, but it smacks of a complete lack of understanding of the issues surrounding mental health, motherhood, etc. calling her a "selfish bitch" and hoping she "rots in hell" were reprehensible and unproductive actions.

maybe you were trying to get alicia to break down in an effort to make her seem more "human", but it's kind of sad that we have to see someone show what we think qualifies as genuine emotion before we can sympathize with them.

where was the sympathy when her child was alive and she needed help mothering? what kind of prenatal support did she have? who could (or would) have helped her when she needed to make good choices in choosing a mate?

there are LOTS of people out here who were never taught to feel, who, while adults to the naked eye, never came into their own as fully actualized, sane human beings. of course the extremes of child abuse, battering and neglect don't always happen in their lives, and you may never notice until you try to be a friend or spouse to them. but they're out there. in droves.

we have no way of knowing what alicia's childhood was like, what got her to the mental state she's in now, whether or not she was on medication at the time of the interview, if she was on and/or off meds when all this happened to her baby (she was 28 at the time). it's not about her being selfish, it's about painting an entire picture of her life, the lives of her children, and what led up to those moments where she was a passive witness--or participant--to these horrific happenings to her child.

i appreciate your background in law enforcement--my father and grandfather were in that field as well. my mother's an educator, so i know what it is to grow up with people who love & value children. i adore and value children myself, and it breaks my heart that this happens to any child, anywhere. having it happen to a black family makes it even more personal.

i remember reading about a toddler who was killed in the last year or so because a grown man--stepfather, i believe--thought he was "gay". all of this opens a totally different can of worms regarding the ways homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality work in our society.

i'm not even going to TRY to digress into the many, many levels of race, class and gender issues inherent in your judgement of this woman and her situation.

my point is this: you are not a therapist. that fact is painfully obvious when you handle topics like these. you also don't appear very sensitive to the needs of those who might need that sort of help unless they fall into the narrow confines of your moral code. i understand not wanting to waste your time and studio money with folks who aren't ready to receive a helping hand, but you berating alicia abraham felt like watching fish being shot in a barrel.

i'm sure it makes folks feel good to know that they're "better" than the people they see on your show, but to someone like me, this kind of foolishness simply serves to perpetuate the stigmas around mental illness, the myth of the perfect parent--particularly the perfect mother, and disregard for the vast range of human experience and emotion.

i'm glad you can afford to be so righteously right and wrong, but, to me, being able to acknowledge and process nuance is what makes us human.

if your only intent was to make alicia look like a monster, i suppose you succeeded in the eyes of some, but i never met a bully i liked.

peace,

omi

~~~~~~~~~~

one caveat: i ain't excusin shit. alicia had an older child who was also abused and probably wasn't in any state to have another.

she mentioned not knowing that her 4 year old had bruises and burns because he was "old enough" to give himself baths. wtf?

but the fact that she could not articulate feelings when asked questions like, "what did you feel when you gave birth to your son?" highlights that there were a slew of issues an almost-trash tv show, however backwardly helpful, could not or would not touch on.

they just wanted a witchhunt.
fine.

but this reminded me a little too much of sethe and schoolteacher...

14 comments:

Estera said...

I agree with your letter. Have you ever thought of mailing this to Wilkos? I am watching the Alicia Abraham story as I type this. His tactics for interrogation are horrid. He'd make a nasty psychologist! I can see in Alicia's eyes that she has a form of despression, perhaps post-partum? She said when Lattie was born, that she didn't feel any emotion. Steve is caustic for her to talk to. She needs real psychological help. Of course, if you DID mail this to Wilkos, he'd give you the stupid 'belly rub' explanation. "When you have a show, you can invite the rapists and child abusers up onyour stage and serve them tea, give them a belly rub....." Sounds like that. You can't tell that belligerent man anything.

s said...

OMI appears to be an over-educated and self-righteous liberal who somehow identifies with the feelings of Ms Abraham rather than her poor kids who were brutally tortured under her care.

Luckily, I'm also an over-educated and self-righteous person who happens to identify with her poor kids, who suffered mercilessly at the hands of her and her mate so I'm going to take the side of her children.

Mr. Wilko used language and questions any parent would use towards Ms. Abraham and because of that, I identified at his disgust and anger. She is convicted - there is no question that she was involved. The woman obviously DOES have sound mental faculties..as sound as any other psychopath.

Their goal was to make Ms Abraham look like a monster but she already did that to herself when she helped torture her own children. Mr Wilko simply held up a mirror and I damn well like him for that.

peace,
S

sparkle said...

i don't think this is about taking sides. in fact, i think the prevailing notion is that all parties involved needed a certain kind of help & support that was not present in their lives. alicia abraham, had she received help with what appears to be sever post-partum depression, may have chosen a better mate for herself. there's no telling what her boyfriend's mental state really was -- how any logical, rational person could call a 4 year old 'effeminate' is beyond me. there's no way on earth that man was fully functional. this does not excuse anyone's actions, but i definitely wonder if any of us on the outside have ever been in those shoes. crippling, debilitating depression is nothing to take lightly. it cannot under any circumstances be considered a passing phase, or just a bit of the blues. people self-destruct when their minds aren't right. that's on any scale. something as seemingly 'little' as using alcohol as a mood regulator is destructive the same way choosing/ staying with abusive mates can be. there's no reason on earth to think that yelling at that woman would "fix" her, and definitely not on some two-bit daytime talk show. not a show hosted by someone who probably has little to no idea what this woman was dealing with or what she was like before becoming a mother or dealing with that obviously damaged boyfriend of hers.

i don't stand in anyone's shoes but my own. perspective changes a lot of things. it's quite possible that no one will ever know that woman's heart or mind -- simply because so many of us unfailingly cast her as a monster instead of considering that she didn't get that way overnight.

creatrix said...

wow...this was unexpected. lol.

to s: actually i'm not what most folks would call "overly educated", but i do have a good idea of who women like alicia are, what they go through, and how they live. they are, in many ways, my sisters--the grandmothers, mothers, aunts and women i see on the street every day. "liberal" is fine i guess, but i'm not really big on labels, especially not those devised by a system i try my damndest to deprogram from on a daily.

trust me, i identify with the kids as well. NO child should have to put up with being raised in hell. and as i said at the end, i'm not excusing shit.

i don't know how long you've been reading this blog, but you might recall that i myself was sexually abused (not by a parent). my personal healing involved learning how to see and understand (as much as possible) ALL sides of a situation. my spiritual path involves that as well. you don't judge, you observe and evaluate, then act accordingly to bring balance. nothing about steve's actions or interview was balanced or dealt with the divine concept of the mirror as i or my ancestors understood it--if you wanna go there.

sparkle's elaboration is an extension of what i was trying to get across: EVERYBODY in this situation needed help. the kids, the boyfriend, AND alicia.

children are products of their circumstances and environments. they should be loved, protected and upheld, period. as should our elders. it is the duty of those of us inbetween to learn and grow in healthy ways; to heal in whatever way(s) necessary so that we can bring forth the next healthy generation and learn from the previous one's mistakes.

all i'm saying is, that day, steve was part of the problem, not the solution.

finally, estera, no, i'm not planning on sending it, mainly because (1) i don't wanna hear a patronizing, "belly rub" answer and (2) because if it were read on air, it would most likely be taken out of context and edited to death.

it was just something i happened to see that hit me in my gut and i had to write about. just like most things i put up here.

peace.

Jahina said...

Hi

I just watched this programme (I'm in the UK, hence we only get to see it now). I was horrified at Wilko. How is that he is even allowed to speak with this woman? Who IS he? He was goading the woman simply for television sake. He obviously couldn't really give a damn about the root of what happened, he just wanted her to break down so his programme could look good.

The woman is mentally ill. What happened is appalling and she does deserve to remain in prison for the rest of her life and I don't feel much sympathy for her. In fact, none. But to exploit her like this just for ratings sake is obnoxious in the extreme.

What an awful person Wilko is. Worse than Springer, because Springers programme is obviously simple titillation and there is no two ways about it. Wilko, on the other hand, seems to consider himself as some sort of...of...well, saviour of morals. Nasty.

Your blog post is spot on.

ms. bliss honeycomb said...

@jahina...thanks for reading & for the comment...

as far as i know, he's a former cop with a very rigid sense of right/wrong and a whole heaping of white/male privilege to go along with it. *shrug*

christopher said...

This mother helped KILL her child She was there!! She IS a monster. I LOVE Steve Wilkos because he points out the truth and exposes the bad....and sometimes he is able to help people (when they want it). I hope this mother rots in hell...I hope she somehow realizes what she did. But, she is a scumbag. A murderer. There are no excuses.

ms. bliss honeycomb said...

christopher,

if you read not only the post but also the subsequent discussion, you'll see that this isn't about excuses, but asking that folks not lose sight of the entire picture in the name of feeling good about bashing a "monster".

i don't know if you saw the episode in question (especially considering that this post is almost 2 years old...), but if you have, and ms abraham didn't evoke at least some compassion, then we're very different people from the outset.

she eventually appeared to show some cognizance of what she'd done, but she had to get help (and, it seems, some medication) before that could even begin to happen. and from what i saw of her, she still had a LOT of healing to do.

peace

christopher said...

once again, you are missing the point. She still shows no remorse. She still said she did not kill her son...which she did. I don't care about her. I don't care about the mother of the child she helped kill...nor should you care about her "getting better".

I am only caring about the child she killed. Not only did she kill him. She also tortured him and his sibling. I am so happy she is behind bars forever. She was never meant to be a mother.

christopher said...

In addition, exploiting her? How about learning from one's mistakes!!?? Steve Wilkos deals with real issues. Yes, it is TV...but it is one of the realistic shows we have that has the balls to deal with people who hurt kids.

ms. bliss honeycomb said...

ok.

thanks for stopping by.

Jahina said...

Christopher, if you read everyones posts fully you will see that we all agree with you in that the woman needs to stay in prison.

However, I object to people taking PLEASURE in vilifying her. And wilko was obviously having a ball. It was the most disgusting thing I have seen in a very very long time.

It was insensitive, it was titillating for all the wrong reasons and it was unnecessary.

There is nothing good that can come out of a programme like that. There was nothing learned from it. We all know it goes on and it is ghastly. But do we need to pervert it all the more by having someone like wilko over sensationalising it?

jojo said...

To all the "saints" that disagrees with the way steve deals with these criminals, please get off your high horses.This monster allowed her boyfriend to torture her son, she should have the same happen to her.After 20 years she still shows no remorse,oh please give me a break, maybe your'l need to see a therapist...

sugar sista said...

jojo - you are WAY late to the party.

considering that i wrote this a full TWO YEARS ago and i'm not even certain if mr. wilkos is still on the air, i'm gonna have to shut down the comments on this one--a first in the seven years i've had this space on the web.

guess it had to happen sometime...