Friday, January 20, 2012

How do you explain child abuse?




The CDC has just released a report on the social & economic costs of child abuse. Perhaps this will appeal to the fiscal soft-spot of people who think that child abuse doesn't impact their lives. 

There's a Twitter campaign to stop child abuse going on right now. Apparently more than five children a day die from abuse. It's appalling. It's nauseating. It's probably happening in your neighborhood.

Before the holidays, I attended a PTA meeting at my son's elementary school. A mom suggested that our school host an Angel Tree to collect gifts for children who were being cared for by child services. It sounded like a great idea and at the time, the Jerry Sandusky abuses were painfully fresh and continually on the news.

I asked, "In addition to collecting gifts, is the school considering any way to educate our kids about the realities of abuse? I mean, we could be asking families in this school to donate gifts for abused kids while the child sitting next to my child is a victim of abuse."

Tact and timing have never been one of my strong points. Pretty much everyone was silent and I never saw the Angel Tree in the school.

ChildHelp states that 6 million children were likely abused in 2009. ChildStats.gov reports there were 74.5 million kids under the age of 17 in the U.S. in the same year. So that's about 8% of all kids in the U.S. experiencing neglect, physics abuse, sexual abuse, psychological maltreatment or medical neglect.

That means in my son's first grade class of 18 kids, there's a statistical chance that at least one child is experiencing some form of abuse.

It's just a chance, though, right?

A few weeks ago, I took my son to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. He loves those awful token-sucking games and cashing in tickets to buy chincey toys. He thoughtfully chose small gifts for his younger brothers.

But in the parking lot, I was stunned to discover a toddler, strapped in his car sear, in a dark van. The headlights and horn of the van were flashing on and off, and I saw another child moving around inside the van, but I couldn't see a single adult.

I've regretted my inaction before when I felt someone was mistreating a child, so I decided to approach the van and knocked on the window. The school age child told me that "the windows didn't go down." I asked where her parents were and she pointed to Chuck E. Cheese.

What flashed in my brain then was a news story about people leaving children in a vehicle while they gambled in the casino.

Other parents leaving the same party we had attended came out of the arcade. One mom I know went back in to alert the Chuck E. Cheese staff. A dad passing by said, "I know that family. I don't know why they do that."

That really stunned me. And then suddenly, the parents of the van-kids emerged from Chuck E. Cheese carrying other children and made eye contact with me and the other watching parents. They got in their van without a word. And so did I.

I have talks with my kids about stranger-danger. I know I'm not the only mom that finds it difficult, confusing, frustrating but absolutely essential. But how do I talk to my kids about parents harming or neglecting their own children?

http://www.childhelp.org/