John Borgstedt, a survivor of what authorities considered one of the worst instances of child abuse in Texas history, will speak at A Call to Action event, set for 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at Asbury United Methodist Church, 4001 E. University Blvd. The event is free.
In a phone interview earlier this week, Borgstedt said his mother suffered from Munchausen by proxy syndrome. Also known as medical child abuse, Munchausen by proxy was named after Baron von Munchausen, an 18th-century German dignitary known for making up stories about his travels and experiences in order to get attention, according to the Kidshealth.org website.
According to the site, “by proxy” indicates that the child’s caretaker is making up or exaggerating symptoms in a child, not in themselves.
Borgstedt said his mother, now deceased, placed him in institutions starting at age 3 and would admit him into the emergency room under false pretenses and just leave him there.
Other instances the 38-year-old East Texas resident cited include being left out on Galveston Beach all day resulting in third-degree burns and his mother drugging him so he couldn’t get out of the bath tub in hopes he would drown.
He went from his mother to being a ward of the state and suffered abuse at the hands of his caretakers. “I couldn’t count the number of facilities I was in from age 8 to 18. After that, I had so much hatred toward society and authority figures that I wanted not only my mother and father to fear the sound of my name, but also society,” Borgstedt said.
Because of what he went through and the feeling that the system had failed him, Borgstedt felt the public was responsible for it. He said he got into organized crime, moving guns into Canada and Mexico. He went to prison for five years, got out and decided to try and change things for children.
When you see cases of children killing their parents, people don’t consider what might have led up to the crime, Borgstedt said. He said he’s not condoning what these people may have done. Borgstedt said he had a chance to kill his mother once, but one of his two sisters stopped him. He also has a brother.
He said he now has no association with his family.
Now an award-winning author, motivational speaker and child advocate, husband and stepfather, Borgstedt wants people to know that past circumstances don’t have to affect their future.
He didn’t want to have children himself for fear that the cycle might be repeated. “There’s something within that line that I don’t want to reproduced,” Borgstedt said. “I also look at it on a more positive note: I have a lot to offer. …”
Knowing he had a story to tell, Borgstedt said he had to find a market and figure out how he could be the most helpful to children. After his first speaking engagement before a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) gathering, things took off.
The first three weeks his book “I Love You Mom, Please Don’t Break My Heart” was out, he said it hit 25,000 outlets worldwide.
Despite his accolades, Borgstedt said his speaking engagements are nerve-racking.
“I never feel that I’m good enough,” he said. But people react with hugs, handshakes and bags of mail. At a book signing at a Barnes & Noble in Battle Creek, Mich., a youngster asked him to put a motivational quote in his book and said the book stopped him from killing himself.
“It’s those that they really hit home,” Borgstedt said. “I’ve tried to commit suicide myself. I flatlined on the table,” but the doctor revived him.
By offering this presentation, Carrie Kennedy, prevention specialist at Harmony Home, said the agency is hoping to bring awareness of child abuse and educate the community about it.
Harmony Home is hoping to offer a presentation every quarter, culminating with the Champions for Children event in April. April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, Kennedy said.