Who is Jolly K. and why does she matter?
Born in the late 1940s, Jolly K. was placed in the first foster care home as a young child. From there she would continue to endure physical and sexual abuse until she ran away for the last time as a teenager. To support herself, she began working as a prostitute. Over time Jolly K. became involved with a man that she would later marry. It is not known to me whether the two children, a boy and a girl, came before or after the marriage, or belonged to this man. The man had become abusive during the relationship and the marriage was eventually dissolved.
According to information gleaned from various sources over the years, Jolly K. had serious abusive anger and rage toward her children. She eventually gave her son up for adoption, believing she was incapable of raising a male child. Her daughter Faith bore the brunt of abuse.
Jolly K. did not want to hurt her daughter but was not able to stop herself. In 1969 she reached out for professional help from social services several times and was turned away each time. In desperation, Jolly K. told them that if she killed her daughter it would be their fault because they had the means to help her but refused. Jolly K. was so distraught they called a clinical social worker to speak with her by the name of Leonard Lieber.
Lieber counseled Jolly for several months and felt that she was putting up blocks to her progress. As any responsible clinician would during therapy, he asked her if she felt the sessions were helping her. Jolly answered honestly that the appointments were helpful, but she was still abusing her daughter.
Frustrated, Lieber asked Jolly, “Well, what do you think would help?”
“Well, if I could talk with other moms maybe that would help,” she rationalized, “If alcoholics could stop drinking by getting together, and gamblers could stop gambling, maybe the same principle would work for child abusers, too.”
Lieber encouraged Jolly to continue with her idea and they put an ad in a Redondo Beach, California newspaper: For Moms Who Lose Their Cool With Their Kids. At the first meeting a couple of other mothers showed up and they met in Jolly’s kitchen over coffee and Mothers Anonymous was founded in 1970.
Soon even more mothers showed up and Jolly’s kitchen would no longer hold everyone. The mothers needed more room so Jolly asked for permission from a local church for space. News of the group’s success spread and other people wanted to get involved. Then a father showed up and asked if he could attend so they changed the name to Parents Anonymous.
In 1971 important discussions reached politics; Senator Walter Mondale led the subcommittee hearings and invited Jolly K. to speak and provide her experience. Speaking on the value of prevention, Jolly K. told how out-of-control her anger/rage was at times. One afternoon she choked Faith almost unconscious and at another time she made her eat out of the floor. Jolly spoke articulately and with the sincere hope that she and other parents like her could get help before a child would be hurt.
By 1973 the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was signed and the name “Parents Anonymous” was written into the law as the prime example for the prevention of child abuse.
Over the years Parents Anonymous Principles have not changed: Parents take responsibility for their problems, parents provide mutual support within the group, parents and the professional facilitators share leadership and skills and parents commit to significant personal growth by identifying their strengths and options and model positive interactions.
Parents Anonymous Groups adhere to a set of standards so that if you attend a group in New Jersey and then move to California, the groups at your new location will operate in the same manner. Some of those group standards are:
• Each group has at least one professionally trained facilitator.
• Each group will have a parent leader chosen from attendees.
• Groups meet weekly for 1 ½ to 2 hours in a location that is safe and free of stigma.
• Information shared in group remains confidential and anonymous – except in the event of the abuse of a child.
• Parents determine what they share in the group.
• There is never any fee or dues charged to attend the meetings.
• Between meetings, the facilitator and parent leader are available to members for support as are members to each other.
• Members decide content for meetings and fit the agenda to parents’ needs.
• Parents decide for themselves how many meetings are beneficial and may return as often as needed.
• All parents receive the I Am A Parents Anonymous Parent (IPAP) handbook that is filled with parenting and other information and it is free of charge.
• All parents are encouraged to take on various leadership roles.
To view more information about Parents Anonymous go to:
Jolly K. has remained one of my heroes over the years because of her selfless testimony to help herself and other parents. I joined Parents Anonymous in 1989 because I was much like Jolly in that I experienced anger/rage issues so severe that I hurt both of my first children – the two I had before the two girls that I write about currently on the Soup To Nuts blog. I was even sent to jail for three days, getting out early for good behavior, and put on probation for five years.
Jolly K. and I are not the only parents with anger/rage issues; both my parents had it as well. Over the years I have informally provided one-on-one support for a handful of mothers as they became known to me.
The point I am trying to make is that Jolly K. and I had a serious problem and we needed help. Anger/rage issues are stigmatized, especially in women and more importantly in mothers, and was/is often swept under the rug, preventing those like us from getting the help and support we need to become the loving, successful parents we want to be. Through Jolly’s work to change important concepts, that help became possible.
Sadly, though, Jolly was never able to fully experience the happy ending we all crave; she committed suicide sometime after her 42nd birthday. Jolly was a victim of child abuse who carried those scars into adulthood and then as a young mother. Her contribution to society has meant that child abuse – gift that keeps on giving – was ended for many thousands of people.
Most parents are not like Jolly K. or me; most come into the group for short-term solutions. Both kinds of parents are welcomed into the groups’ nonjudgmental surroundings.
The next time you hear on the TV news of a child’s untimely death I would ask each of you to stop and think, “What was that parent going through?” and “Was there anything that could have prevented this?”
NOTE: In Parents Anonymous, last names are not revealed to ensure privacy and anonymity. Due to the secrecy involved, the exact dates and timeline for Jolly K.’s story cannot be confirmed for certain so please bear with me.
Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath. ~Eckhart Tolle
Anger is one letter short of danger. ~Author Unknown
If you kick a stone in anger, you’ll hurt your own foot. ~Korean Proverb
Not the fastest horse can catch a word spoken in anger. ~Chinese Proverb
Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. ~Robert G. Ingersoll
If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size? ~Sydney J. Harris
Anger is short-lived madness. ~Horace
He who angers you conquers you. ~Elizabeth Kenny
For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness. ~Author Unknown
People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing. ~Will Rogers
Photo Credit: Jolly K. – The National Parents Anonymous Organization