Jewish World Review April 1, 2002 / 20 Nisan, 5762
That is how the 8-year-old girl in Dane County, Wis., explained to medical workers and police why she was whipped with a metal belt buckle on her back and legs.
And the human bite mark on her right forearm?
"I didn't know how to count," the child said.
That was the reason. Her mother --Olga L. Jaramillo, 26 -- had bitten deeply into the girl's flesh as punishment because Jaramillo thought her daughter was deficient at arithmetic.
What about when Jaramillo and her boyfriend, Mauro M. Lopez, 36, had tied her by her hands and feet?
They had done that, the child said, so she could not move while Lopez beat her with his belt. She said she tried to scream, but her mother covered her mouth, which began to bleed.
This was going on in an apartment at 2102 Rosenberry Rd. in Madison, Wis., where, according to police and hospital personnel, the girl was held as a slave by Jaramillo and Lopez, and was brutalized whenever the adults would find fault with the way she cleaned the house, washed the dishes or cooked the food. She had been withdrawn from her elementary school -- the teachers had been told she was sent to Mexico -- and was locked in the apartment, deprived of all outside human contact.
"Short of homicide, it does not get much worse than this," Dane County District Atty. Brian W. Blanchard told us. "This was an intentional effort to deprive a child of every shred of dignity and peace of mind."
The child had been living with a grandmother, but Jaramillo took custody of her. Almost immediately, Blanchard said, the slavery was instituted: The girl was forced to be a full-time servant for Jaramillo, Lopez and the couple's 5-year-old son. The rest of the family ate their meals at a table; the girl was made to eat off the floor. The rest of the family slept in beds; the girl was made to sleep on the floor.
For months the child was beaten, whipped, burned, bitten and cut almost on a constant basis; police photographs showed her body covered with bruises and welts from her face to her toes. After Madison Police Sgt. Dave McCaw found her stuffed face-down beneath a bed, and Jaramillo and Lopez were arrested, the girl began to tell of her punishment to authorities, who videotaped her accounts for future use in court.
The burn on her left hand -- how had that happened?
Her mother had done it, the child said: "She told me to clean this pot. ... She burned me and then a bubble formed on it."
What was this punishment for?
The child did not know how to cook an egg: "I told her I was only 8 years old and I had to be 12 before I could cook it. When I told her I couldn't, she put my hand in the pan and it burned."
The U.S. Constitution guarantees that no person shall face "cruel and unusual punishments" from the courts or the government, but as we have been pointing out during these last two weeks of reports, children who are punished in such ways do not receive that constitutional protection, because the punishment is privately administered by the adults entrusted to care for them and protect them. In the three cases about which we have been writing, the children have survived, which is why the facts have come to light. In many cases, the children are killed -- punished to death -- before being able to say what happened to them.
In the case of this girl, District Atty. Blanchard told us, had police not found her hidden under the bed, "This very well might have been a homicide."
What about the girl's hair -- why was it not there?
She had loved her long, dark hair, but she said Lopez told her "I didn't know how to clean the furniture, I didn't know how to clean the kitchen, I didn't know how to clean the pot." With the child's mother watching, Lopez shaved the girl's hair off as punishment. "I really liked my hair when it was long, but after they shaved it I cried," she said.
Tomorrow we will report what happened when Jaramillo and Lopez were taken to