How should we address the situation of Kellyanne Conway, whom daughter Claudia Conway has accused of abuse? This has been a dilemma we’ve been pondering for days, ever since the 16-year-old started posting video clips of her mother yelling at her — clips that she has since made private.
Here’s the thing: On Tuesday, Claudia posted several clips and compilations of her fights with her mom, going back months and including the infamous time they both had COVID. The videos are confusing, awkwardly recorded on the sly so that her mother wouldn’t notice she was doing so, but also edited so that we couldn’t hear the beginnings or endings of the fights.
As a mom and a former teenage girl, maybe I shouldn’t admit that some of that screaming seems like the typical — and also unhealthy! — sounds of a household undergoing the stresses of adolescence and pandemic life. (Someone, measure the decibel level of a Dominican mother who has been “talked back” to.) But some of it seems way beyond that. Maybe social workers and child-welfare experts could determine what is what, but it is impossible for a layperson to tell just how bad things are based on these videos.
At some points, the teen wrote and spoke about abuse, and asked if anyone could come get her, but then said she didn’t want her mother to be put in jail.
“I have hundreds and hundreds of videos just like that and I thought it was important because as a woman who has such power in this country I don’t think people really know how she is,” Conway said in one video, transcribed by Vox. “And it’s also a reminder to everybody who is in a similar situation that you’re not alone, and that trust me, I get it. In terms of what can be done, there’s nothing that can really be done. I’ve tried everything. My parents are too powerful and nothing happens. I’m probably going to get in a lot of trouble for this. I just want everyone in the world watching this to know that I’m not lying at all. I wouldn’t lie about anything like this.”
While at one point she complained that someone from Child Protective Services had visited but done nothing, in another video, she said the police had just visited while she was home alone, but she sent them away and told them she was fine.
All of this has made onlookers speculate, and speculate some more. Some on social media think this is all a cry for help and want to get the authorities involved right away because Claudia is in danger. Others think this is all about a typical teenager hating on her mom, only this time she’s becoming famous for it.
On Thursday night, Conway posted a video showing a police officer visiting their home and talking to her mother.
“She’s upset. She’s been upset for a week because we had a tough call with her school,” the former Trump advisor tells the officer, while Claudia scowls at the camera as if to contradict this statement and says, “The facts!” Kellyanne mentions wanting to go to family therapy, while the police officer suggests taking away the teen’s access to her phone and the internet. This video is no longer accessible on TikTok, but TMZ captured the exchange.
What we do see on Claudia’s account now is a video that could either be her way of reassuring followers that everything is fine. Or, you could read into it and think Kellyanne made her post this:
“Hi, I just wanted to come on here and address my other videos. I’m in no way, shape, or form trying to get anyone in my family in trouble. I was just spreading awareness and expressing my feelings. But I will not be commenting on the situation further because there is nothing I can do about it. But I hope you all stay safe, and I hope you have a great day. I love you all. Thank you for the support, but I’m not trying to get my mom in trouble or start drama or become a headline, so … Just spread love, that’s all you can do. This world is so hateful.”
Whatever the situation is, here is the bottom line: We can’t tell! We are not there, we don’t know this family, and we don’t have the complete context of what goes on in that home. And because of this, we are very much unqualified to determine whether Claudia does need help out of a dangerous situation or she just needs to be grounded.
What we can say is this: Tensions are high in most households right now, and have been for 10 months. Domestic violence is up, and many of the typical avenues for children to get help — school and after-school programs, for instance — are not available. But we have a hard time believing that reaching out to strangers via social media is the most effective means to get out of an abusive situation.
We cannot give Claudia advice, because see above, but here are some ways other kids, or the adults who care about them, can seek help in an abusive situation:
1. Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). ” Listen to the little voice or gut feeling inside you when it says what is being done to you isn’t right,” Childhelp says in a resource sheet for kids and teens.
2. Turn to a trusted adult and tell them what is happening. This can be a teacher, a relative, a neighbor, or a friend’s parent. “Find an adult you trust and tell them what is happening,” Childhelp advises. “If they don’t believe you, keep telling other adults until someone does believe you!”
3. Visit Childwelfare.gov for more answers about reporting abuse. There’s also a fact sheet for anyone who is confused about whether they or someone they know is being abused.
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