Next week we are going to be running a five day series in honor of Child Abuse Awareness month. The story that we will be sharing was written by a woman named Tami Revering. She is going to tell you her story of severe postpartum depression and how it led her to abuse a child; an infant. She will share from her perspective how she tragically shook a crying infant and nearly killed him. It is a hard story for many to read and understand, and even harder not to judge Tami harshly for her terrible actions. But for me, it is the story of a woman who could have been me or any other of my mom friends. You see Tami was just like many of us. A young mother, college educated, staying home with her children, and afraid to ask for help. What Tami did in the depths of anxiety-riddled depression is something that I believe many of us are capable of doing without help and treatment. And I know this because I know Tami well. Tami was my college roommate.
She was always the one smiling and her laughter was easy to pick out of the crowd of her fellow cross country runners at the University of MN, Duluth. She loved the outdoors and being active and she was basically inseparable from her freshman year boyfriend, Bill Revering. They were both cross country runners and began dating immediately after they met in the fall of 2000.
They were a fun couple, without a care in the world and their wedding a few years later reflected their personalities. We all danced the night away and had a blast!
We drifted apart after college but kept in touch through Facebook and occasionally we’d talk on the phone to catch up. Tami seemed very happy with her growing family and was interested in learning about natural birth and fertility awareness methods. All seemed well. And then I arrived home from a business trip on November 10th, 2010 and I went to pick up my kids from my mom’s house. My mom broke the news to me then that Tami had been arrested. I couldn’t — wouldn’t — believe it. Then my husband gently explained what had happened and that yes, Tami was indeed being charged with First Degree Felony Assault, against a baby. As soon as he said that she had shaken a baby I understood and I felt an incredible amount of sadness and empathy for what the baby’s family and Tami must have been going through. The horrific consequences of her actions would affect so many people for so many years to come.
While I was travelling home that night from a meeting with a large pregnancy center chain in the Midwest, I was unsettled and struggling with the direction that Guiding Star was going to take. There had been proposals made by powerful people that Guiding Star should be absorbed into the pregnancy center movement and that we “fall in line” with others who also cared about the sanctity of life and the promotion of motherhood. My ideas and desires to make Guiding Star into whole life centers that focused on support long before and long after a woman’s years of fertility was not finding traction with potential pregnancy center partners. They did not share my concern for attracting people that were not in unplanned pregnancy situations. I wanted to make a place for moms like me to hang out at and reconnect with one another and they said that was not needed. I wanted a judgement-free place for women to receive care that was natural and holistic. Seeing Tami’s face on the news that night forever cemented the Guiding Star vision and mission into my heart as I knew that what I was trying to create could have helped my friend.
I barely recognized Tami in the mug shot photo that began immediately circulating. Her eyes were so swollen and puffy and her face reddened by tears that she looked like an entirely different person. The comments on the news articles were awful and I could not stop myself from replying and defending my friend (and I am NOT a combox person). The immediate assumptions from so many that this woman must be a drug addict or a drunk who regularly beats her children made me furious! They knew nothing about her, and yet the gravity of her actions was so serious it gave license for so many to disregard her as a waste of space.
And I understand their anger. This adult nearly killed a child. A defenseless baby.
It is right that we are upset about the abuse of children. It is right that we are upset about the abuse of any vulnerable human being.
But it is wrong for us to close our eyes to the preventable circumstances that could save children from being hurt. It is wrong for us to assume that perpetrators are beyond repentance and forgiveness.
I wrote Tami a letter shortly after the incident. I think she may have still been in the Psych ward. I remember telling her that someday something good could come out of this awful situation. That she was not the sum of her failures, that I knew she was a good person, and that I hoped someday she would be well enough to face her actions in the full light of day and warn other people about the risks of untreated mental illness. I told her that shaking the baby didn’t need to define her life; that she could grow from this tragedy into a strong advocate and protector for children. I am so proud that Tami is taking those first steps in speaking and writing about her experience. Doing this takes tremendous strength.
We will be monitoring our comment box and will not tolerate comments that demonize Tami. She struggles enough with not doing that to herself. She doesn’t need your help to remind her how awful her actions were. She is a human being, deserving of our respect and protection. Just like all of us.
Do you remember your middle school or high school reproductive health class? When I think back to my education about periods and “How babies are made” my memories are brief. I can remember short parts of videos or awkward condom demonstrations and disgusting pictures of STDs. Does this sound familiar to you?