Addressing America’s Largest Public Health Problem
By E. Diane Champé
Cancer InCytes Magazine - Volume 4, Issue 2, Winter 2015
Published December 7th, 2015
Managing Editor: Juliana Zhu, Esq.
Cover Art: Ping Cao
Diane Champé was isolated and physically, emotionally, and sexually abused (along with suffering almost total neglect) the first 21 years of her life. Her father molested and raped her while her mother made it clear she would offer no protection. Due to sheer perseverance, Diane left home damaged but determined to make a success of her life. Starting from an entry level position in a Fortune 20 company, within 19 years she was promoted to the Regional Vice President’s staff. When she found out her brother was sexually abusing his four-year-old daughter, Diane was instrumental in having him convicted for his crime. However, all of her personal trauma, which she had pushed to the back of her consciousness, resurfaced causing her to lose her job and go through 23 years of therapy and five hospitalizations to recover. Since then, Diane has prepared for 10 years to open a center for adult survivors to provide a safe haven for their healing. The opening is scheduled this year. Child abuse and neglect is the largest unacknowledged public health problem in America. The silence is deafening because it is so prevalent and both survivors and families have kept it a secret. Diane is addressing it by providing services for those in her community. By helping survivors regain their voices, she believes change will eventually occur.
Isolation and Parental Abuse
Do you want to feel loved? Do you want to be connected to people? Are you happy and comfortable with your life, or do you live in fear, darkness and pain? These are the questions I dealt with for over 55 years because of being abused and neglected as a child.
My birth was not a blessed event in the eyes of my parents. It was my misfortune to be born into that household because their inner struggles became my living hell. My father was in the military, so we moved constantly all over the country. Even though I attended 28 schools, I was isolated and never had any friends or anyone to talk to.
During those trips, I was made to be silent. My mother hated taking care of me, so from the day I was born I had an internal sense of being unloved and uncared for. I was taught to keep my emotions to myself. Not having a secure attachment with either parent, I didn’t feel safe or secure.
Starting at a very young age, my father constantly fondled me. As I neared puberty, I woke up in the middle of the night to find him performing oral sex on me. My main focus turned to finding ways to hide, which included sleeping on the bathroom floor with the door locked or in the family room closet. My bodily responses to these sexual advances were exhibited by constantly having fever blisters, the whites of my eyes were red, and I had hives from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. Not one teacher asked me if anything was wrong.
As I got older, the abuse escalated. He raped me when I was 14, 15, and 17-years-old. I had no one to help or support me. So, my method of coping was to split off the pain and tell myself he would never touch the real me. Going forward, I never got angry and I never cried. At 21-years-old, I left home and told my parents not to contact me ever again. I had my life to live. I literally split all thoughts of them out of my mind by telling myself they were dead.
Ramifications of Abuse
I started working at an entry-level position for a Fortune 20 company, and within 19 years, I was a strategic planner on the Regional Vice President’s staff. My mental breakdown started when I learned my brother was sexually molesting his four-year-old daughter. I refused to be silent and had him convicted as a child molester.
All my memories came flooding back, and I spent the next 23 years in therapy and was hospitalized five times because I was suicidal. My nervous system was very impaired after all of the abuse and intensive therapy I had gone through. My trauma manifested itself in physical ailments. Over the years, I had an emergency appendectomy, emergency cholecystectomy (gall bladder removed), and esophageal spasms when my mouth would fill up with water. As I got older, I had constant skin rashes. I would pass out about twice a year and then be taken by ambulance to the emergency room. It seemed like my nervous system was reaching its limit.
In 2013, I was diagnosed with cancer but was blessed in that we caught it upfront and began immediate treatment. I am now cancer-free. This year I thought I was having a stroke, was hospitalized, but was told I had what is called convulsive syncope, so I no longer take managing my stress levels for granted.
I have committed myself to helping alleviate the suffering of adult survivors. I am opening a center this year to provide a safe haven for them. It is my way of giving back for the loving support I received.
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Repercussions of Child Abuse and Neglect
The consequences of childhood trauma constitute a major public health problem. For many children, unaddressed consequences of trauma will adversely affect their entire lives and the lives of those around them. Rapid identification of traumatized children could lead to early interventions which can diminish the negative sequelae and save enormous sums of money relative to the cost to society of the consequences in adulthood. (1)
One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of eighteen. (2)
The rate of child abuse and neglect is 10 times as high (40 children per 1,000 children per year) as the incidence rate for all forms of cancer (3.9 individuals per thousand individuals per year). (3)
Children in the age group of birth to 1 year had the highest rate of victimization (24.4 children per 1,000 children in 2006) of the same age group in the national population. (4)
80% of perpetrators are parents. (5)
Theoretically, during early brain development, neglect and abuse lead to deprivation of input needed by the infant brain. (6) Studies have been conducted to analyze stress responses to various forms of child maltreatment, three of which appear below.
When patients’ brains were viewed on PET scans after being presented with vivid accounts of their own traumatic experiences, there was heightened activity in their right amygdala and associated areas of the temporal and frontal cortex, as well as in the right visual cortex. (7)
In a group of 33 maltreated children aged 4 to 6 years, they were shown not to have elevated salivary cortisol levels in situations of stress brought on by conflicted social interactions, which suggests a blunting of the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis. This axis is a major system that controls reactions to stress and regulates many processes such as mood and emotions. This lack of HPA responsiveness may have evolved as a protective factor for the brains of these very vulnerable children. (8)
The results of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study with over 17,000 participants had startling results. Those who experienced four or more types of ACEs, specifically being a victim of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, witnessing their mothers being abused, or having family members who were substance abusers, mentally ill, or imprisoned, suffered significantly more chronic disease, and were nearly 2.5 times as likely to have diabetes, twice as likely to suffer cancer or heart disease, and nearly 2.5 times as likely to have had a stroke. (9)
Need For Action on Impact of Child Abuse
Child abuse and neglect is the largest public health crisis in America. If a food substance was poisoning over a million children every year, the CDC would be putting out alerts and there would be “breaking news” stories on TV every hour in a rush to prevent it from further happening. But child abuse is only in the news to broadcast titillating and sensational stories—instead of treating it as a health epidemic.
I met with Elie Wiesel, the Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Laureate, and said, “During WWII, everyone knew what was happening to the Jews but no one did anything about it. In America, everyone knows about child abuse, but there is no public outcry. What is your response?” He said, “If you acknowledge something, you have to do something about it.”
Won’t you join me in acknowledging survivors who desperately need a safe and caring atmosphere to heal? To find out more about our work, go to www.edcinstitute.org.
About the Author
Diane Champé is retired from a Fortune 20 company where she was a Marketing/Sales Strategic Planner on the Regional Vice President’s staff. She is a Subject Matter Expert (S.M.E.) on issues relating to child abuse and neglect and has written her autobiography Conquering Incest: My Life as a Trauma Survivor. As a survivor herself, she dedicates her efforts toward working on behalf of adult survivors, publishing books/information and speaking publicly about the long-term effects of child abuse and neglect. Ms. Champé’s nonprofit, the E Diane Champé Institute, will begin providing services in Pikesvillle, MD this year with a mission to provide survivors a safe haven, education, training and resources.
 “Mobilizing Trauma Resources for Children,” Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, January 8, 2004.
 National Child Traumatic Stress Network
 Child Welfare League of America, “Testimony submitted to the House Subcommittee on Select Education of the Committee on Education and the Workforce for the hearing on CAPTA: Successes and Failures at Preventing Child Abuse, August 2, 2001.
 HHS Releases National Statistics on Child Abuse and Neglect for 2006, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Maltreatment 2006, page 27.
 Ibid, page 75.
 Early Brain Development,
 Rauch, S., van der Kolk, B., Fisler, R., Alpert, N., Orr, S., Savage, C., Fischman, A., Jenike, M., & Pitman, R. (1996). A symptom provocation study of post-traumatic stress disorder using positron emission tomography and script-driven imagery. Archives of General Psychiatry, 53, 380-387
 Hart, J., Gunnar, M. & Cicchetti, D. (1995). Salivary cortisol in maltreated children: Evidence of relations between neuro-endocrine activity and social competence, Development and Psychopathology 7, 11-26.
 Emory, Kaiser Permanente, the University of Arizona, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted the ACE study with findings published in the May 1998 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
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E. Diane Champé