7-year-old Jani Schofield, born August 2002, has been diagnosed with Childhood Schizophrenia. Jani was born, “January Schofield.” However, according to Oprah.com and the interview documented there, she prefers to be called Jani. Apparently during their interview they found out that calling her January is one of her triggers for an onset of emotional upset. Over time Jani has become more accustomed to violent rants and outbursts. She insists on being called Jani or Jani FireFly or Blue-Eyed Tree Frog, according to her father. These points of mention are small in comparison to the larger battles that this young soul battles on a consistent basis. This condition has affected a large number of our society and will require a great deal more research to gain any viable solutions. As a community, however, we have been sharing our expertise. I have seen many posts and blogs around the internet on this little girl and I have seen lots of video footage as well. There is a community of folks that have commented on this news story and have done everything from praise the family for its bravery and honesty in sharing what they have experienced on their journey to bashing them and calling the parents child abusers. There are varying degrees of emotional responses flooding the internet from a slew of observers.
Michael Schofield, Jani’s father, has his own blogsite where he regularly blogs the family’s journey with Jani. There are claims that Michael Schoefield openly admitted to physically abusing and starving Jani out of frustration and as a means to an end. Personally, I have not have not seen the comments that were allegedly made by Mr. Schofield and therefore cannot offer anything either way. Many concerned citizens belonging to a group of onlookers that believe that Jani’s parents have been negligent and abusive in their care have gone to great lengths to express their disapproval and outrage. Some of those who are concerned are even blogging endlessly about it and their readers, equally as put off, are commenting without cessation. Many of which are pointing the finger at abuse and assigning it as the culprit for Jani’s condition. Apparently, quite a few people are under the assumption that Jani was a very spirited child prior to the onset of her Schizophrenia and her parents, in an uncontrolled state, physically assaulted this child as a means to controlling her, triggering her to go inside to deal. It is amazing to me how we can come up with all these conclusions about someone’s life that we lack the privilege of knowing outside of what has been observed in the media and community forums. I urge each of you to remember that without the observation of trained professionals and a proper diagnosis, no one can accurately gauge “when” Jani began to experience Schizophrenia. As we know, simply having imaginary friends and, or places does not constitute signs of a Schizophrenic, since those behaviors can be quite normal for many children. The psychiatric community currently has no documented evidence that concludes that abuse (physical or sexual) is a and, or the causative factor for this psychological disorder.
What comes to mind when I think of the speculation of abuse being the cause and, or a factor of Schizophrenia, I am reminded of the millions of Holocaust victims and the millions of slaves that were physically, sexually, and psychologically abused. The torture that was endured during these historical events were horrific and yet, there is no historical evidence that would lead us to believe that Schizophrenia was present in these populations. It would have been hard to ignore if it had. It would have also been very unproductive for their tyrants.
People seem to be hopping all over the place emotionally in response to Jani’s story because their buttons have been pushed. Why do we always look for someone to blame? Is this journey not challenging enough? There is too much speculation without enough evidence. It is apparent that Jani is a very intelligent child. She is also very verbal. If she was being abused, it seems likely that she would speak out about it. It is implausible that she would speak about it intentionally with her fragmented bouts with “our” reality, but I do find it probable that she would honestly and unintentionally speak on it or make some sort of reference within the framing of one her many outbursts and moments of sharing. Jani is very adamant about what she wants and does not. From my observation of her during some of the videos, she has no problem making her point when she is dissatisfied. I am not suggesting that this young girl can protect herself or that you should close your eyes and become unobservant to what stands out to you. I am simply saying, before you cast judgment and sentence her parents or anyone else, in any other situation for that matter, make sure your assessments are reasonable.
In addition to the personal attacks on the Schofield family, people have begun attacking, most recent interviewers, Shari Roan (LA Times) and Oprah (Harpo Productions), verbally whipping them in their commentary for allegedly omitting the facts about the physical assaults on this young girl, accusing them both of turning a blind eye.
My question is this, “why would Oprah or Shari, people whose fame largely comes from exposing truths, turn a blind eye to something like that? What would they have to gain from doing such a thing?” I cannot conceive, with the information currently available to me, how they would gain anything. Maybe I am missing something here, but it is likely a stretch of the imagination, out of a need to justify and blame someone, anyone, to say that Shari and Oprah ignored to report Jani’s alleged abuse. It would actually have benefited them more by bringing those factors to light, considering the business that they are in, if in fact the rumors are true. 1) It adds to the drama of the story (drawing attention to a greater number of viewers/listeners) and 2) It would lend credit to the hypothesis that abuse is a precursor to the onset of this condition, offering greater evidence to the possibility of Schizophrenia as a subcategorical manifestation of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Think about it, we would be identifying abused children by a whole new checklist, not just bumps and bruises or broken bones, but mental disorder. Wow! The criminal charges behind that would be mind blowing.
During this technological era, we have enormous bits of information at our disposal. Yet, it does not stop us from spreading invalidated rumors. We hear one person say it or we read it somewhere and we automatically assume it’s the truth. This is one of the reasons Snopes.com has become so popular, to encourage people to advocate and pass on good information, to at least attempt to get the facts before arbitrarily cosigning the rumors. We, as a people, cast too many stones and judge too quickly. Hasty judgments are made and nasty rumors are spread before substantiating what is real or not, never considering the damage that such accusations can cause. If there is foul play, I am prayerful that those truths will surface. However, in the meantime, I must give the parents the benefit of the doubt and you should too.
Empathy at this point would be a far stretch in helping those of us on the outside touch the tip of the iceberg in trying to understand what is going on in the minds, hearts, and lives of this family. Nonetheless, it is the most realistic sense of comfort that we as a society can offer. Please send your prayers and hold a vision for healing, not only for Jani, but for her entire family. Regardless of what perspective you hold on the story, the bottom line is that they all need help and prayers. Let us be compassionate and extend loving thoughts for the health of the Schofield family and our communities at large.
For those who are unfamiliar with the family and Jani’s story, I have embedded a clip below, compliments of the LA Times.