By Jane LeMond-Alvarez
April 23, 2006
Every year, communities across the nation proclaim April as Child Abuse Awareness Month. Typically, well-meaning child-abuse organizations write articles to educate people on parenting skills. They claim that times are stressful and it’s normal when children get on our nerves. They write, “Don’t throw your child in the air; don’t shake your baby; if you get angry, call someone until you cool down; don’t take it out on your child; and the list goes on and on and on.
This rhetoric is always the same. Still, we see an increase in child abuse each year. Why? Because child abuse is seldom treated as the crime it really is. Let’s face it, people who hurt children are committing a crime. Pure and simple. Look at it this way. Would you be sympathetic if I was feeling overwhelmed and having a bad day and struck you across the face or, worse yet, broke your arm or leg, or sexually assaulted you? What if I caused traumatic injury to your head or abdomen? What if you had to be hospitalized? Or suffered blindness or brain injury? You’d probably have me arrested for a felony. It is certain that I would go to jail. Why is it different when we commit such acts upon our children? Simply put, because we are the parents, it is not viewed as a crime when we injure our children. We are simply stressed out. All we need is some counseling or maybe a little anger management.
Mandated state reporting agencies and child abuse organizations report that 3 million children are abused every year and approximately three to four children die each day in America, and those numbers are on the rise. The majority of victims are infants and toddlers under the age of 4. Children are our most vulnerable citizens and they cannot protect themselves. All they can do is lie there and “take it.” Think about that, folks.
Awareness is not enough anymore. Three million abused children each year constitutes an epidemic, in my book. It is time to address the issue in cold, hard facts. Protecting children and punishing the abuser should be our No. 1 focus. It is naïve to believe that all abusers will change after a few sessions of counseling and anger management. Our society is paying dearly. Our children are paying the ultimate price. We can no longer afford to tolerate child abuse. We will pay one way or another. Just look at the facts:
According to the U.S. National Statistics:
Direct costs of child abuse:
- Hospitalization: $6,205,395,000.
- Chronic health problems: $2,987,957,400.
- Mental health care system: $425,110,400.
- Child welfare system: $14,400,000,000.
- Law enforcement: $24,709,000.
- Judicial system: $341,174,702
Total direct costs: $24,384,347,302
Indirect costs of child abuse:
- Special education: $ 223,607,830.
- Mental health and healthcare: $4,627,636,025.
- Juvenile delinquency: $8,805,291,372.
- Lost productivity to society: $ 656,000,000.
- Adult criminality: $55,380,000,000.
- Total indirect costs : $69,692,535,227.
When you become aware of child abuse, whether it’s from reading about it in a newspaper or of personal knowledge, it then becomes your responsibility and obligation to get involved to ensure that the child does not fall through the cracks. You can and should become part of the movement to stop child abuse and protect our most vulnerable citizens. Those who abuse children must be held accountable and responsible for their actions. Justice must be served.
If children could vote, politicians would listen and be quick to change the situation. Please be the voice for our children by contacting your local child abuse organization in your area. Ask them how you can help. They will be glad you did. Contact your local and state representatives and demand protection for our children. You can make a difference ¿ even if it is one child at a time.
- Jane LeMond-Alvarez lives in Oxnard.