Beth Thomas and her brother Jonathan experienced abuse during their childhood. Beth’s biological mother passed away when she was one year old when Jonathan was only a month old. The children were entrusted to their biological father, who failed to provide proper care and also subjected them to sexual abuse. Consequently, both siblings experienced significant psychological and emotional difficulties, with Beth in particular developing reactive attachment disorder (RAD).
RAD made her unable to form healthy bonds with others and caused her to act violently and harmfully towards herself, animals, and people around her, including her brother Jonathan. She tried to kill him several times, as well as her adoptive parents, who took them in after they were rescued by social services.
Beth and Jonathan eventually received therapy and treatment, and their story was documented in a controversial HBO documentary called Child of Rage: A Story of Abuse. Today, Beth is a successful nurse and an advocate for abused children, while Jonathan lives a private life away from the media attention.
The Abuse Beth Thomas and Her Brother Jonathan Suffered
Beth and Jonathan Thomas were born to a young and troubled couple, who had a history of drug abuse and domestic violence. Their mother died of a blood infection when Beth was 19 months old and Jonathan was one month old. Their father then took custody of them, but he was not a loving or caring parent. He sexually and physically abused both children, leaving them with scars and injuries. He also neglected their basic needs, such as food, clothing, and hygiene. He often left them alone in their crib, crying and hungry, for hours or even days. He also exposed them to pornography and other inappropriate materials.
The abuse and neglect that Beth and Jonathan endured had a devastating impact on their development and well-being. They suffered from malnutrition, infections, and diseases. They also developed behavioral and emotional issues, such as aggression, anxiety, depression, and mistrust. Beth was diagnosed with RAD, a disorder that affects children who fail to form secure attachments with their caregivers in early childhood. RAD can cause children to be withdrawn, fearful, or hostile towards others. It can also make them act impulsively, destructively, or sadistically, without remorse or empathy.
In 1984, when Beth was four years old and Jonathan was three, they were finally rescued by child welfare services, who found them in a filthy and dangerous environment. They were placed for adoption with a couple named Tim and Julie Tennent, who were unaware of their history and condition. The Tennents hoped to give Beth and Jonathan a loving and stable home, but they soon realized that they had a difficult task ahead of them.
Beth Thomas’ Harmful Behavior Towards Her Brother
Beth Thomas showed signs of RAD from the moment she arrived at the Tennents’ home. She was distant, cold, and defiant towards her new parents. She refused to hug or kiss them, and she often lied or manipulated them. She also displayed disturbing behaviors, such as self-mutilation, animal cruelty, and sexual acting out. She would cut herself with sharp objects, kill or torture small animals, and touch herself or others inappropriately. She also had nightmares and flashbacks of her abuse, and she would scream or cry uncontrollably.
But the most alarming and dangerous behavior that Beth exhibited was her violence and hatred towards her brother Jonathan. She would physically and sexually abuse him, hitting him, biting him, or forcing him to do things he did not want to do. She would also try to kill him, by pushing him down the stairs, smashing his head with a rock, or stabbing him with a knife. She admitted to her therapist that she wanted to kill her brother, her parents, and herself because she hated them and felt no love for them. She also said that she felt no pain or guilt for hurting others and that she enjoyed it.
Beth’s harmful behavior towards her brother was so severe that the Tennents had to lock her in her room at night, to prevent her from attacking them or Jonathan. They also had to monitor her constantly and keep all sharp or dangerous objects away from her. They were terrified of their own daughter, and they did not know how to help her.
The Aftermath of Their Story
HBO’s Child of Rage: A Story of Abuse documentary revealed Beth and Jonathan’s story in 1990. Dr. Ken Magid, Beth’s therapist, interviewed her about her violent and abusive thoughts and behaviors in the documentary. In the documentary, Beth and Jonathan received therapy and their adoptive parents coped. It revealed child maltreatment and RAD’s effects, making the documentary frightening and controversial. Filming and airing such sensitive and personal information raised ethical and legal issues.
It also piqued interest in Beth and Jonathan’s life after the documentary. After their experience, many questioned if they reconciled with their parents and found happiness and success as adults.
Various accounts say Beth and Jonathan moved on from their past. Medical and intense therapy helped Beth heal and change her behavior. She learnt to express herself, regulate her urges, and build good connections. She reconnected with her adoptive parents and thanked them for their kindness. She returned to school and graduated honors. She became a registered nurse. She wrote, spoke, and was an advocate for mistreated and neglected children. Her book, More Than a Thread of Hope, shared her journey and gave RAD children and families hope and assistance. She started the Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio, a therapy and consulting organization. Her husband and son live.
Jonathan preferred a quieter existence. He was able to overcome his trauma and the violence inflicted by his sister with the support of therapy and treatment. Ben forgave Beth and remained close. Additionally, he maintained communication with his adopted parents, who were very caring and adored him. He studied. He has a family and is married, yet he stays mum about his career and personal life. He avoids interviews and public appearances since he doesn’t like being in the spotlight.