Friday, January 11, 2008

Possessed By Demons?


You may have heard about a recent story that appeared in the news. In Washington DC, four children were found dead in their home. Their mother (33-year-old Benita Jacks) claimed that her daughters (Brittany, age 17; Tatianna, age 11, N'kiah, age 6; and Aja, age 5;) were all possessed by demons, and died individually in their sleep. As they died, Benita laid out their bodies in empty bedrooms, where they stayed for at least fifteen days. She told police that she did not call the police or anyone else to come remove the bodies, because she did not trust anyone and she thought calling someone to help would just cause more trouble. However, police have strong evidence showing that Benita herself actually murdered her four children.
It is pretty obvious that this mother had a serious, serious mental illness. The saddest thing is that people knew that Benita's life was spiraling out of control. Last February, the children's father died of cancer, and people who knew the family said that Benita started acting strangely after that. She removed the furniture from the home, put the children's video game system out in the yard for neighbors to take, withdrew the children from school, and refused to talk to anyone. When relatives came around visit or deliver money, Benita usually wouldn't open the door. Someone somewhere was concerned enough to call D.C. Child and Family Services, but every time people from the agency went to the home, sometimes accompanied by police officers, nobody answered the door.
The only people who managed to get through the door of Benita's house were three marshals, who came to forcefully evict the family from the house after eviction notices had been ignored for months. The marshals discovered the children's bodies, and then arrested Benita.
This is a horrible story, but it is not unique. In December, 4-month-old Myles Lippiat and 2-year-old Silas Lippiat were murdered by their mother, who believed they were possessed by demons. The mother said she heard voices in her head urging her to kill the children. Reportedly the mother had asked for help before, telling doctors she had thoughts of hurting the children, even dialing 911 at one point to ask for help. But somehow, this desperate mother and her children slipped through the cracks.
On Christmas Eve, seven-month-old Jillian Engleman was drowned by her mother, who believed the infant was possessed by demons. And only a few days ago, Kendra Suing, age 10, and Alysha Suing, age 8, were stabbed and strangled to death by their stepfather. The stepfather practiced his own strange form of "witchcraft", and said he killed the children while performing a "spell" that went wrong.
This seems to be the type of thing that happens every day! We all hear the larger and more famous stories that make national headlines, like the case of Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children because she believed she was a bad mother who had created bad children. Yates had a serious mental illness, and some of her beliefs had been fed to her by a traveling preacher with extremist views. But there are also countless stories that only make it to the local news.
It should be noted that not every parent living with mental health problems is a danger to their children. Far from it! Illnesses such as depression, manic depression or bipolar, schizophrenia, etc, can be treated and managed. In the tragic cases where parents have ended up hurting or killing their children, they were usually people who refused treatment or were unable to get help.
If you do know a parent who tells you he or she feels the need to hurt the children, take it seriously. Trying to reassure a person that their feelings are natural, that they just need to get a babysitter and take a break from their children for a while, etc, might only frustrate the situation. As in any emergency, call 9-1-1. This is not a way to get the parent into deep trouble, since hopefully at that point the parent will not have harmed the children yet. Instead, the parent will be able to get the medical and psychiatric attention he or she needs, and the support to keep the whole family safe.
And if anyone reading this at any time is going through something like this (my blog comes up pretty high on a Google list, so if a desperate parent were to Google a phrase like "children possessed by demons", they might arrive at this page) if you are afraid your children are possessed by demons or anything else, do not try to handle it yourself. Bring the children to a church, or bring them to a hospital, or bring them anywhere, but whatever you do, do not hurt your children. If you are worried that your children are possessed, it might be better for you to not touch them at all, in fact, until you have found professional help for them and for yourself.

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