Basic statistics from 2015:
“Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S annually. Child Protective Services protects more than 3 million children. Children in the first year of their life had the highest rate of victimization. Neglect is the most common form of maltreatment: three-quarters suffered neglect; 17.2% suffered physical abuse; and 8.4% suffered sexual abuse. About four out of five abusers are the victims’ parents.”
Let’s be clear: parenting is extraordinarily difficult. No one should enter parenting casually. No one should become a parent without the advantage of mainstream, credible training. There are no perfect parents. There is a surplus of lousy parents. Almost 80% of children abused annually are abused by their parents: 560,000 children per year.
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse and neglect as:
“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
A child is anyone under age 18.
I recently served on a jury in a criminal matter, no walk in the park.
One parent was accused of assaulting a 10-year-old son. Allegedly the child had broken household rules. Tradition in that family called for a spanking for that level of violation, said the accused. This 10-year-old and two younger siblings were left alone for extended periods, considered neglect in some states.
Various degrees of assault were alleged. The other parent videotaped a ‘spanking’ which lasted about 4 minutes. It involved the use of a metal cooking utensil and left a welt on the victim’s buttocks. Other marks were seen in photos taken by the parent who videotaped. Testimony also confirmed the child’s hands were bruised, hit when he tried to protect himself. One parent testified the child was struck three times, and the other parent said the child was hit five times. The accused parent was heard threatening to break the child’s bones. All this was entered as evidence for the jury to consider.
The parents testified they did not clearly communicate what had actually happened. The parent accused of assault actually confessed that in light of subsequent information, the ‘spanking’ was not justified.
Clearly the child’s parents sent him mixed and contradictory messages concerning rules and consequences.
The incident occurred four years ago. The parents were then, and are now, divorced. The criminal complaint was initiated by the parent who gathered evidence shortly after the filing of a custody matter (by the other parent) occurring more than two years after the alleged incident.
Evidence and witnesses were presented during two and a half days of proceedings. Those testifying included a social worker, a police detective, a forensic child interviewer, the father, the mother, and the 10-year-old. Expert witnesses confirmed fact patterns but did not draw conclusions as to guilt or innocence so far as the jury was informed.
The child testified it was painful to walk or sit for days afterward: that the bruised hands hurt for that length of time as well.
In our state, an accused adult can be convicted of assaulting a child if the accused is shown to have knowingly or intentionally caused physical harm resulting in a reduction of functionality or substantial pain.
The State (prosecutor) claimed the accused met the standard to be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt.
The defense argued the parent was exercising reasonable use of force to maintain discipline and to provide for the child’s welfare and safety through the use of such force.
The accused was charged with three counts of assault in various degrees. A jury vote of 10-2 would determine a verdict of guilty or not guilty. The jury deliberated for two hours and returned verdicts of not guilty on all counts.
As one juror remarked afterward: “When it gets to court, nobody wins.”
It is this writer’s opinion that the child is and was the big loser. In complex proceedings considering events during long periods of time, the child can easily get lost in the shuffle.
In this instance, none of the adults were held accountable for anything!
Judging from the child’s body and spoken language, the incident left him scarred. What did the child learn through all this? Probably very little, other than adults are not to be trusted.
What do we expect in a culture that has devalued human life to little more than animal existence, a culture filled with adults in age only, people more consumed with self-indulgence than the welfare of their own children?
Life is no longer sacred to us, so why should we expect assault and abuse to be of serious concern? When we shred one million babies in the womb per year or sell their parts by other means, how can we claim a sense of conscience or justice? When we allow the elderly to be disposed of like worn-out appliances, gone is the moral high ground.
American parents abuse 560,000 of their own kids every year: 1,534 abused kids per day, 128 per waking hour. How do we expect anyone to deal with this—-social services, law enforcement, the legal system—-when we have demonstrated by word and deed that kids are disposable, inconvenient, even an annoyance?
And finally, when we wonder about increases in youth crime and violence, suicide and drug abuse and mass shootings, perhaps we need look no further than our own households for answers.
On the day we drove God from our homes, we invited the devil, consigning our children to chaos, abuse, fear, and dysfunction.