Angelina Jolie warns of longterm effects of isolating children with abusive parents

Angelina Jolie and kids at Maleficent: Mistress of Evil - London Premiere held at the Odeon BFI IMAX.

Angelina Jolie’s latest Time Magazine op-ed is about vulnerable children in the time of coronavirus. In North America, the school year has been canceled almost everywhere. This means that kids have basically been stuck at home, isolating with parents or caretakers since March, and they’ll continue to be stuck there for months. Angelina wants to talk about the kids who are stuck with abusive parents and caretakers, either as victims of abuse or eyewitnesses of abuse. You can read the full Time op-ed here. Here’s part of it:

In America, an estimated 1 in 15 children is exposed to intimate partner violence each year — 90% of them as eyewitnesses to the violence. An average of 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or family member every day. We will never know in how many of these cases there is a child in the next room — or in the room itself. Isolating a victim from family and friends is a well-known tactic of control by abusers, meaning that the social distancing that is necessary to stop COVID-19 is one that will inadvertently fuel a direct rise in trauma and suffering for vulnerable children. There are already reports of a surge in domestic violence around the world, including violent killings.

It comes at a time when children are deprived of the very support networks that help them cope: from their trusted friends and teachers to after-school sports activities and visits to a beloved relative’s house that provide an escape from their abusive environment. COVID-19 has cut children off from their friends, their regular schooling and their freedom of movement. With well over a billion young people living under lockdown worldwide, there has been a lot of focus on how to prevent children missing out on their education, as well as how to lift their spirits and keep them joyful in isolation.

For millions of children and youth globally, schools are a lifeline of opportunity as well as a shield, offering protection — or at least a temporary reprieve — from violence, exploitation and other difficult circumstances, including sexual exploitation, forced marriage and child labor and domestic violence. It’s not just that children have lost support networks. Lockdown also means fewer adult eyes on their situation. In child abuse cases, Child Protective Services are most often called by third parties such as teachers, guidance counselors, after school program coordinators and coaches. All this poses the question: What are we doing now to step up to protect vulnerable children from suffering harm during the shutdown that will affect them for the rest of their lives?

We were underprepared for this moment because we have yet to take the protection of children seriously enough as a society. The profound, lasting health impacts of trauma on children are poorly understood and often minimized. Women who find the strength to tell somebody about their experiences are often shocked by the many people who choose not to believe them, make excuses for abusive behavior, or blame them. They are often not prepared for the risk of being failed by an under-resourced child welfare system, or encountering judges and other legal professionals who are not trained in trauma and controlling abuse and don’t take its effects on children seriously.

[From Time Magazine]

Jolie goes on to name-check California’s surgeon general, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who has been outspoken about the cost of domestic violence long-term and the value of early-childhood intervention, often by third-party screenings. Jolie also suggests that we all check in with friends during the lockdown, especially if we have concerns about women and children in vulnerable homes.

Did anyone else feel a little catch in their throat about this? “We were underprepared for this moment because we have yet to take the protection of children seriously enough as a society. The profound, lasting health impacts of trauma on children are poorly understood and often minimized.” I feel like… Angelina is speaking from personal experience. Yes, she’s seen and advocated for vulnerable children around the world through her work with nonprofits and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. But she also spent several years trying to work through the American/Californian legal system and child-protection system when she left Brad Pitt in 2016. *Someone* called Child Protection Services and they launched an investigation into Brad’s actions on the plane (they later closed the investigation without any charges). I just feel like Angelina has an intimate, personal connection to this issue too, and she’s also had a front row seat to the limits of what these state agencies can do then and now.

Angelina Jolie at UN for a Speech on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Avalon Red.

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47 Responses to “Angelina Jolie warns of longterm effects of isolating children with abusive parents”

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  1. Joanna says:

    Her skin looks gorgeous, I want the name of her doctor!

    • Escondista says:

      Dr Genetic Lottery… and being a goth gal for so long really helped her out. Sunscreen and hats, folks.

    • Adorable says:

      Dr Rhonda Rand is the name of her dermatologist,she did an interview about a year ago about how Angie takes care of her skin.

    • Jane wilson says:

      Yikes!! I think she looks like a shiny corpse.
      There is something unwholesome about her that chills me to the bone.

      • Xilco says:

        I applaud Angie for this Oped and previous ones because she addresses important issues relevant to our lives. But even if she hadn’t written about the accelerated dangers of child abuse at this time you don’t have to be a mental giant to be aware that child abuse is very prevalent in our society. I’ve read so many reports and seen films about the unspeakable acts of abuse by adults (men and women) to children and I’ve cried and couldn’t get them out of my mind because having children is such a blessing I don’t know how anyone could harm such gifts.
        PS: Angie does NOT look like a corpse. She is a beautiful lady inside and out. Don’t understand a person’s need to post a negative comment. I don’t go to threads about
        a celebrity I don’t care for, much less post a negative comment. Waste of my time. 😊

      • Double says:

        I agree with Jane but I’d say embalmed. She has always had a strange off look to her (eyes and skin and manner), which is why I never found her beautiful. Just my opinion.

  2. Escondista says:

    SO glad she is talking about this. I’m sure her experiences with Brad and her children are a factor. As a parent of a 3 month old and 3 year old, the thought of small kids trapped with abusive parents makes me cry. I have often felt so exhausted and so impatient right now but the thought of making my children cry or feel fear with me is too much.
    PSA: it’s totally normal to feel frustrated With and annoyed by your kids but they trust you to be the one person on the planet to keep them safe.

  3. Mustlovedogs says:

    What an intelligent, incisive, well written piece. Angelina is amazing. This made me feel all sorts of things- sadness, anger, … and some re-lived trauma of my own. She is a shining example to those pampered “bored” celebs we are tired of hearing from at the moment. (Ellen are you listening…?)
    Although it is triggering personally, I’m grateful to her for making us all think about this issue. What a woman.

    • Otaku fairy says:

      This. The increase in domestic violence, combined with restrictions being placed on access to abortion in some places, are some of the other scary results of this pandemic.

    • Hoot says:

      Yes to what AJ spotlights here. My future DIL made domestic violence and child abuse issues her specialties. While working on her doctorate (L.A. area) she put in countless volunteer hours manning hotlines and doing interviews, and she said the need for more support is HUGE in these areas (and always has been). During this pandemic her office is closed, so she does tele-doctoring from home. She’s busy from dawn ‘til dusk, and if it was humanly possible could work 24/7 because the need for intervention/discussion is so overwhelming.

    • Maria says:

      I’ve been worrying about this as well. I wish there were more public service ads on TV or on the internet to help kids, even to know that it’s not right if their parents are hurting them. Or that might give them access to online or phone help. In addition, this seems like a time for reminding parents who are on the edge to think hard about their behaviour.

      There was a woman interviewed on CNN a few weeks ago who runs a program I think in Florida which has a hotline for parents worried about their own behaviours and which counsels parents on the edge. For example, she mentioned a call from a mother who was worried about shaking her baby and who needed someone to vent to who would not judge her but help her avoid abusive behaviour. Such an important initiative – wish it were everywhere. The sales of alcohol are rising. The combination of increased alcohol use and anger worries me from the child abuse and of course domestic abuse angle. Lastly, widespread abortion hasn’t eliminated child abuse, we shouldn’t conflate this. For some – me – it is child abuse. Sorry to get into it, but abortion isn’t a panacea.

  4. Meg says:

    Yes it’s easier to control someone if you isolate them. So many female friends growing up dated jerks and you didn’t see or hear from them at all during the relationships. We’d try reaching out to them to plan to hang out and they’d either not respond or change the subject and we’d ask what’s going on then they’d admit their boyfriends didn’t like us. We’d point out that he didn’t know us at all we literally had never interacted with them. Thankfully most of those women got out of those relationships and ended up with men who don’t do this, except one friend. She ended up marrying and having kids with this loser. They met at work and he’d bad-mouth her to everyone they worked with. Her parents begged her to leave him, I did too. Later when she was asked how the relationship was going she got quiet and when me and her parents kept asking she said her boyfriend told her not to talk to others about their relationship. You have no support system if you do that, and it’s easy for an abuser to gaslight you to convince you that their treatment is normal because your dream of reference is just them no one else so they make up your reality entirely.

  5. Slowsnow says:

    While I am happy that Jolie or any other celebrity highlights these issues, or any important issue, I can’t help but think that people are reading a non-specialist, and that the press will more likely print an op-Ed from a famous person rather than reaching out to specialists and really inform us. This kind of reading is sad and contemplative rather than pro-active and specialised which imo is what the world needs. I am sick and tired of bad journalism, the wrong questions being asked and sensationalist articles. My mind goes to refugee camps, to the homeless, to a girl I know who is now god knows where because she left her abusive home… I want the state to do something, I want governments to tax people who have money in order to have a really inclusive and constructive society. But writing it is not going to get us any further…
    Sorry for the rant, I know Jolie is at least not gooping up her life and I generally like her and feel for her…

    • SaraR. says:

      Beside referencing Dr. Burke Harris (I recommend her TED talk which is excellent), at the end of her piece, Angelina lists contacts for people who need help.

    • lucy2 says:

      I’ve actually seen a number of articles about this, from journalists not celebrities, and at least in my state and area, people have been sharing the info on how to get help if you need it, and I’m pretty sure it’s been mentioned at my governor’s daily press briefings.

      While I agree that it’s important to listen to specialists, the sad reality is that a celebrity like Jolie writing that is going to be more widespread than a trauma expert. That says a lot about our culture, but right now, hopefully it helps someone.

      • WTW says:

        yes, numerous articles from journalists have been written, and as someone who works in media, I’ve personally reached out to experts from across the country about this topic. I know that in L.A., there has not been an increase in domestic violence calls. The sheriff just discussed this over the past week. And, for context, because mandated reporters (teachers, social workers, pediatricians, etc.) make most of the calls to child protective services, it makes sense calls would drop now. It doesn’t mean more children are being abused. (Calls also drop over the summer and winter breaks.) Also, about 90 percent of calls from these reporters turn out to be unsubstantiated, according to one expert I spoke with. Another said that the top form of child abuse isn’t physical or sexual abuse but neglect, which she does expect tor rise because so many people don’t have child care. Finally, there are hotlines, like Child Help, designed more for parents and kids. They have seen calls rise during the pandemic, meaning that families are reaching out. And some school districts have set up mental health hotlines families can call during the pandemic.

  6. Yoyo says:

    I saw a video saying women in Spain can go into pharmacies and use a code word to the pharmacist to get help for spousal abuse.
    And with unemployment soaring, it’s not like an abuser needs another trigger.

  7. Hildog says:

    My parents have been together for 40 (mostly) very happy years. When I was younger (birth to 10?) my dad was a violent alcoholic and my parents often physically and verbally fought in front of myself and two younger brothers. Fortunately, my dad decided his drinking was out of control and stopped. As an addict myself, I have no idea how he did this. My point is that for most of my life my family has been happy, healthy, wealthy, but all my childhood memories are of me and my brother trying to stand between our parents. Good article- I have some friends to check in with.

    Also, FLAWLESS skin! Angie is Gaia!

    • B says:

      @ Hildog your comment is very sad. Feels like your childhood was taken away from you. Please go see some one and it’s not ok what they did.

  8. Sierra says:

    I love this woman..

  9. Jessica says:

    Contrast this to the dipsh*t interview in T & C with Gwyneth.

    It’s like Gwyneth has nothing better to do than fixate on her *haters* and troll them as much as possible. It’s her cause. I’ll take AngieJo’s cause anyday over that twit.

  10. Auntieof3 says:

    Im glad shes bringing attention it this. As a child who grew up in an emotionally and physically abusive home, school was absolutely my escape. Being home especially alone with them was terrifying.

    However, i only see men being labeled as the abusers here and women as the victims. Woman and mothers can be abusive. My abuser was my mother.

    Many people do not believe mothers have it in them to be abusive and many people have questioned me and said things like “but shes your mother, she loves you.” This is highly offensive to victims.

    Im glad there are resources for these victims but i wish people would realize abusers come in all shapes and sizes and sexes

    • IMUCU says:

      Both of my parents were the abusers, so school was my escape too. I can’t imagine being stuck with them at home right now. I found ways to avoid going home for holidays/summer once I went away to college, just so I wouldn’t be stuck in that environment with them.

      In high school I even tried telling a couple of trusted teachers and all I got was: *crickets*. It’s like they didn’t know how to react and I didn’t “fit the mold” of what an abused child looked like at the time. It was disheartening then and it’s disheartening now to know that the same types of responses may be going on and that there are so many children at home without any support systems.

      • auntieof3 says:

        im sorry IMUCU for your doubly troubling experience. hugs.

        yes, i was full of ideas on avoiding home! when my brothers went off to college I made my moves to escape and luckily my parents divorced but it was hellish for a while during that process. I had the same experience in high school, and my mother even manipulated teachers into believing that my father brainwashed me. it was be so frustrating when people dont trust you when you are sharing something deeply personal.

    • IMUCU says:

      Thank you Auntieof3 for your kind words! I’m sorry for what you went through too <3. Mine would threaten to send me away, which when I was little seemed worse, but then as I got older I thought "Gee, that's a great idea, I won't be around this dysfunction/abuse." And would say "Okay!" which, of course, they would manipulate and talk about how I didn't love them, was abandoning them, etc…You can imagine what a problem going away to college was and then eventually moving out of state. Typical narcissistic PD ! My relationship is better with them now because I’ve been to therapy/self help groups and know how to set boundaries, etc. but they are still messes in their own lives. At this point I wish they could find it in themselves to work on getting better for themselves, but I don’t have much expectation of that ever happening, no matter how much help is offered to them . Ultimately I would like to find a way to support other children in dyfunctional situations so they know that they too can come out on the other side of the trauma successfully.

      • auntieof3 says:

        wow, sounds familiar lol any chance one of them was BPD and the other NPD. common match and abandonment issues is central to BPD.
        so glad you have set healthy boundaries and have taken the initiative to heal on your own :) . Ive read that peoples personalities are set in stone by 40, not that they arent incredibly hard to treat anyway considering they think theres nothing wrong with them. *facepalm*

        I would love to help too. you have a certain kind of perspective that not many people can relate to. I bet it made you an empath like me. silver lining.


      • auntieof3 says:

        ps. there are great threads on Reddit under personality disorders, children of narcissists etc, and i reach out to people looking for advice

    • Mustlovedogs says:

      Sending love and hugs and understanding to both of you @auntieof3 and @IMUCU. My mother had full blown narcissistic personality disorder and my father was her enabler. There are still very very few people who have an understanding of what it was like. Almost impossible in this society to say your mother did not love you. It’s seen as shocking. My sister and I only really came to terms with it and finally found each other in our fifties. Our mother had spent her life dividing us and playing with us like pawns. And then I lost my sister just a few years later to cancer. I am alert to the subtle signs in children. And I won’t be silenced now. I remember what not having a voice feels like.

  11. Hmmm says:

    Of Course she’s talking from experience. There’s a documentary on Netflix that talks about cps and how their entire goal is to reunite the abusers with their abused kids no matter what. It’s sad and often times they don’t believe the kids.

    Angelina is one of the lucky ones cause she could afford a good lawyer and fight to protect her kids and make sure they’re heard and can get the proper help.

    Her priorities as a celebrity and a mom always seem to be in the right place.

  12. ad says:

    Thank you Angie for raising awareness at this time of lockdown. Organisations dealing with abuse of any kind has already confirmed of the so many calls they’ve received! Very worrying time for anyone who is experiencing abuse right now.

  13. Lop says:

    Thank you Angie for writing about these issues.
    Both my parents were abusive and school was my escape so can’t imagine what kids that are probably in the same situation are going through right now.

  14. Veronica says:

    First thing my mom and I talked about when the colleges shut down – what about all those kids who don’t have safe homes to which they can return? Where will domestic rape and abuse victims escape? Really reflects the utter lack of social safety nets for them.

  15. JB says:

    I am so glad she spoke out, and that you are covering this (I did not see it covered in other places). Yes, there is experience speaking – and her knowledge of CPS – and of what wealth and privilege can buy (both for her and Brad).

    At the end of the day, I keep returning to a twitter thread about how developed a country is the US? When Canadian’s are able to get unemployment benefits into their bank accounts 24 hours after filing online? After Germany and South Korea and Iceland all squashed Covid 19 with multiple measure and preparedness? To me, this abandonment of our most vulnerable is part and parcel with where we are as a country. And it is very, very sad.

  16. LaNena says:

    I love this woman she’s bringing light to an important issue during quarantine lol at brad fans thinking she’s being shady towards him with this article lol if the hat fits. Her kids are so lucky to have her as a mom SUCKS that they have such a horrible dad tho who tf skips their daughter’s surgery to party and travel.

  17. RisiaSkye says:

    In addition to whatever happened on the plane (and in the months leading up to it) that led to her divorce from Pitt, she is also mother to three children adopted as infants. The circumstances which led to them being in the orphanages from which she adopted them, and the unknown toll those conditions may have taken on pre-verbal children, acts as another unspoken subtext.

  18. Franny says:

    As we flatten the curve for healthcare outcomes, we are causing massive spikes in poverty, child abuse, domestic violence, educational disparities, and other terrible factors. These are ethical considerations too.

  19. Summer says:

    Look, I really like Angelina, but what is the solution here? I look at reports everyday that talk about malnourished kids, abused children. Daily. I appreciate her wanting to get the message out, but what is the solution? It is very technical. This is so very…vague.

    • Emma33 says:

      Hi summer, see my comment below…I know it sounds really vague, but one answer is to check in on any friends that you feel may have volatile or controlling relationships and offer support. Or, when you’re out on a walk, be aware of whether any kids you see seem OK. Also, if people suspect family violence may be occurring at the house or apartment next door, to contact the authorities.

      I volunteer for a charity that supports foster children, so this issue has been on my mind. There isn’t a lot we can do, but I think as a community we need to do what we can and not look the other way if we see signs of abuse.

  20. NastyKid says:

    I love this woman, she is already a legend

  21. Emma33 says:

    I volunteer for a charity in Australia that supports foster children, and this morning I wrote a Facebook post about exactly this issue – asking supporters of the charity to look out for kids in their neighborhood who might be victims of family violence or other kinds of abuse. These kids are completely alone now, and it is so tragic. I know of kids who are living in really vulnerable situations and it is just heart-breaking to think of what may be going on in their homes.

  22. Sarah says:

    Love her commitment to her causes. And I admire how she’s giving voice to the voiceless . There are so many famalies under so much struggles and pain due to crona virus. We know that every country that has Cronavirus has reported domestic violence and abuse has increased. I am proud to see Angelina is talking about this, making people aware what is happening under our noses and we can’t keep ignoring them. I hope Jolie carries on calling out the authorities for turning a blind eyes to these kinds of abuse .

  23. Sarah says:

    Victims are suffering we need to make sure we can help them in any way or form . We need to make sure there us every kind of help we could give to the victims of Abuse. Angelina Jolie as always is using her platform to make others pay attention too. So proud of the women she has become.

  24. Sarah says:

    Victims are suffering we need to make sure we can help them in any way or form . We need to make sure there us every kind of help we could give to the victims of Abuse. Angelina Jolie as always is using her platform to make others pay attention too. So proud of the women she has become…