I sit on the end of the bed staring at my daughter’s sleeping face. She shifts, sighs and turns, a picture of tranquillity.
My daughter is eight. She made it past three, past four, five, six and seven with no major injuries. She has never been beaten or kicked in the head. She is healthy, strong and well fed. Her soft skin is unmarked by scabies or ingrained dirt. She is regularly washed, fed, clothed, celebrated and loved.
Nobody has ever put my daughter in a tumble dryer to see what would happen if they turned it on.
Nobody ever stuck her on top of a clothesline and spun it and spun it until she fell off.
Unlike poor Nia Glassie.
Tonight as I watched Nia’s story on Beyond the Darklands I realised that if she had survived, Nia would now be the same age as my girl.
Eight years old.
Poor Nia only made it to three.
In her whole life did anybody love her or show her kindness?
Was there ever a time when Nia wasn’t the butt of everybody’s joke? Did anybody ever pick her up and wipe her tears after yet another day spent being shoved and slapped and told she was ugly?
My heart broke for this sad neglected little girl, unkempt, left hungry to stand in the rain and play in the dirt. So grubby that the nurses in the hospital couldn’t scrub the grime from her unconscious little body, it was so ingrained.
It goes against nature! I cried as I listened to Nia’s mother tell the police how she knew what was happening to her daughter. Yet she still left her in the so-called care of people who only saw her as a nuisance and a scapegoat. She allowed another woman to slap her little girl across the face and head and call her ugly. She saw it and she said nothing, did nothing. This mother knew these people were hurting her daughter but she repeatedly walked away and let it happen. She did nothing to save or protect or rescue her baby.
My heart broke for Nia, lying unconscious on the bed after being kicked in the head by two grown men.
She was ignored for a night and a day as she lay unconscious. Oh they tried to wake her up by putting her in a cold bath, but when that didn’t work did they take her to a doctor? No, they put her back in the bed and left her while they had a birthday party for the man who kicked her head in.
Nia my heart breaks for you.
I wish somebody could have told you how beautiful you were.
I wish you’d had somebody to wash you and dress you in pretty clothes and comb your hair and dance with you and cuddle you and sing to you. If only you had somebody who could have sat by your bed and read you bedtime stories, tucked you in and kissed you goodnight.
If only somebody had cared about you enough to take you away from the people who hurt you. Or to call the police when they saw you on the clothesline, or heard your screaming.
Nia you deserved a better life.
You deserved to paint pictures and have somebody hang them proudly on the wall. Someone to take your photo a thousand times, not just once. One photo is all we have to show us that you were not ugly, but beautiful and full of potential which was snuffed out, destroyed and demolished in the most callous of ways.
Nia’s story touched my heart tonight. I knew the story, I remember it on the news, but tonight I saw the contrast between my daughter, so loved and protected, and Nia, so neglected and abused.
What breaks my heart is not just Nia’s awful death, but her awful life.
What breaks my heart the most is that tonight as I write this, Nia’s sorry story is still being played out in homes around my country. Other little girls and boys are crying themselves to sleep, afraid of what might happen to them come morning.
Nothing has changed.
I find myself asking the same question a friend of mine asked when she watched this programme: What can I do about it?
It’s a question that will keep ringing in my heart until I think of something. Because as a mother, the thought of children continuing to live and die neglected, abused and unloved is beyond bearing.
Nia's Story on Beyond the Darklands...