(part of the Lost Childhood series)
(80% of children who die from abuse are under the age of 4)
Across the country there is a common perception that child abuse and neglect are things that happen in someone else’s neighborhood. We tend to imagine that we live in a world where such grotesque acts of depravity could not be happening right next door. Instead we greet our neighbors with smiles and try to imagine that the picturesque world we have made for ourselves is just that… picturesque.
Statistics on our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, and our country as a whole do not paint our world as we would wish it to be. With a few clicks of the mouse you can easily find the numbers for your state, your county, and your city. With just a few moments of research you can see just how such a wretched crime is being ignored as it happens again and again… right next door.
(Image via Child Help)
For Indiana, the home state of Alder’s Ledge, these numbers are daunting.
During 2010 in Indiana there were 23,095 cases of child abuse or neglect. That is the amounts to around 14.5 children out of every1,000 children in Indiana. Of these 11 percent were physically abused, 16.2 percent were sexually abused, and 89 percent were severely neglected. This is only made more tragic when we factor in that 17 of these children succumbed to the trauma inflicted upon them by their abusers and/or the neglect they suffered.
This is just one state. It is just one portion of the world where people are expected to be wholesome and kindhearted. It is after all home to the infamous “Hoosier hospitality”. And Hoosiers are among some of the most generous people when it comes to donating to charitable causes.
So we are left with the fact that child abuse is not something that can be kept at bay by our good intentions. Once the doors close the skeletons come out of the closets. When the world isn’t looking the monsters inside us seem all too willing to come out and stretch their muscles. Inside each of us is the potential for tremendous good and unconscionable maliciousness. The only difference between the people who commit this crime and those who do not is the ability to choose the prior rather than embracing the later.
There is no excuse for this behavior. There is no defense for the abuse and slaughter of innocent children, ever.
During 2009 in Indiana of the 38 children killed due to abuse and/or neglect 79 percent of them were three years of age (or younger). All of these children could have been spared the fate their abusers dealt them. Yet the silence of our society allowed them to perish.
For the children who survive their abuse and/or neglect there are lasting effects that span well into their adulthood.
- 14% of all men in prison in the United States and 36% of all women were victims of child abuse and/or neglect. (Nearly twice the frequency seen in the rest of the population.)
- Children who are abused are nearly nine times more likely to become involved in criminal activities.
- About 80% of 21 year-old adults who had been abused as children tested positive for at least one psychological disorder.
- Around 30% of abused and/or neglected children will later in life abuse their own children.
- Children who are abused are nearly three times more likely to have a substance abuse problem by the age of 18 than children who were not reported to have been abused.
Child abuse and neglect can be defined in several ways. Children who suffer from neglect of abuse do not necessarily suffer just one form or another. In many cases children who are reported as having suffered abuse often are recorded as suffering multiple types of abuse and neglect.
While neglect of a dependent is the most prevalent it is also the most noticeable form of abuse. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, and psychological abuse are harder to identify without the crime itself being reported by either the victim or a witness. This is made even more difficult when one realizes that the perpetrator of these crimes often uses intimidation or inherit trust to keep the victim silent.
Breaking The Silence
This crime knows no boundaries. Though the myths all claim it is a social ill that is mainly the problem of the underprivileged and poor the facts all show it is a pervasive disease of mankind. There are no members of society that are beyond it. There is no social class that does not commit it. There is no religion or culture that does not have it amongst them. Money, education, faith, and good intentions do not stop it. The only source of preventing it is through persistent vigilance.
When pushed to their limits parents, family members, and general custodians of children can reach a breaking point. However, the moment the child is forced to suffer physical, emotional, or sexual abuse the excuse of being frustrated cannot be applied or allowed. There must be a zero tolerance threshold for these acts. The effect of even one incident costs both the family and community for the remainder of that child's life. In addition, just one incident of abuse and/or neglect creates barriers in that child's life that may limit the child's mental and emotional development.
As a society we have an obligation to our most precious gift, our children, to readily combat this crime. We must realize as a whole that these victims have no ability to defend themselves or knowledge of how to seek a way out. Abuse isolates a child in a way that prevents them from seeking help (especially when the abuser is a family member or parent). Therefore, these children rely upon the intervention of adults (whether that be relatives or community members).
Society as a whole must realize that child abuse does not simply pertain to physical abuse. Sexual acts (or forcing the witnessing of sexual acts), psychological abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and verbal abuse are all forms of abuse that must also be identified and punished without exception. The myth that "if it isn't violent it isn't abuse" cannot be permitted to continue. Any and all forms of abuse must be punished with the full force of our laws and zeal.
In addition the said laws must be persistently scrutiny so as to be certain that there is no way for abusive cases to slip through the system. Whenever a child dies from abuse (especially when it has been reported) the system must be investigated and the failures must be identified. In cases where the system has failed due to neglect of it's operators those responsible must be punished to the fullest extent. When it comes to the life of any child there is no room for failure.
As for those of us who are not in a position to pursue these crimes there is always the responsibility to report them. By turning our eyes away we become accomplices in the suffering that these children have to face daily. If we are not willing to scream for them we must ask ourselves who will?
To report a suspected case of neglect or abuse all you have to do is make one simple phone call:
- United States or Canada: 1-800-422-4453
- UK: 0800-1111
- Australia: 1-800-688-009
- New Zealand: 0800-543-754
(For more international list please visit: http://www.chiworld.org/)
By utilizing your voice you give these children a chance at a life free from abuse. Though the consequences of the abuse they have already sustained may not change, the hope for a better tomorrow is given to them. And all it takes is one phone call.
If you suspect a child is being sexually abused you can also call:
- "Stop It Now": 1-888-773-8368
- RAINN: 1-800-656-4673
- For international list visit: http://www.chiworld.org/
In Indiana there are resources available for parents who feel they need help caring for an infant. The "Safe Haven Law" allows for parents who wish to surrender their infant the ability to do so for 30 days after birth. As long as there are no signs of intentional abuse the person surrendering the child will only need to prove they are the legal custodian of the child.
If you are an Indiana parent of a baby less than 30 days of age and can't provide for him/her you can learn more about your options by visiting: http://www.safehaven.tv/ or calling 1-877-796-HOPE (4673).
Help break the silence by visiting any of the sources listed below to learn how you can help raise awareness of this horrible crime. You can also help by sharing articles like this one and thus raising awareness of child abuse. Lending your voice, your vigilance, and your compassion is the only way that this crime can be stopped. So do your part and scream for those who have been made mute by this wretched crime.
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(note: not all sources listed)
Prevent Child Abuse Indiana
National Children's Alliance