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Child Abuse - a Child Called It

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In American society today we fail to address several issues that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, child abuse is one of the major issues that our country is plagued with, yet we neglect to bring this to the attention of the entire nation. It is often over looked because everyone has a different view of what exactly defines child abuse. The International Child Abuse Network (ICAN) uses four basis catigories to docunment the child abuse cases. They are: emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. I will be describing the first three.

Emotional Abuse, (also known as: Verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological cruelty) includes acts or the failures to act by parents or caretakers that have caused or could cause serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional or mental disorders. This can include parents and/or caretakers using extreme or bizarre forms of punishment, such as the child being confined in a closet or dark room, being tied to a chair for long periods of time, or threatening or terrorizing a young mind. Less severe acts, but no less damaging is overly negative criticism or rejecting treatment, using degrading terms to describe the child, constant victimizing or blaming the child for situations.

Neglect (the failure to provide for the child's basic needs) can be physical, educational, or emotional. Physical neglect can include not providing adequate food, clothing, appropriate medical care, supervision, or proper weather protection (heating or coats) to the child. Educational neglect can include failure to provide appropriate schooling or special educational needs, allowing excessive truancies, to the child. Psychological neglect is the lack of any emotional support and love, never attending to the child, spousal abuse, or drug and alcohol abuse including allowing the child to participate in drug and alcohol use.

Physical abuse is to cause or inflict physical injury upon the child. This may include, burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating, or otherwise harming a child. The parent or caretaker may claim not to have intended to hurt the child, that the injury was an accident. It may have however, been the result of over-disciplines or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child's age.

In 1998 NCANDS (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System) calculated the Fatalities by Maltreatment, Child Abuse and Neglect. There were 421 physical abuse fatalities, 375 neglect and medical neglect fatalities, 31 both physical and neglect fatalities, and 10 fatalities caused by; failure to use safety restraints in motor vehicles, lack of supervision resulting in accidental drowning, death in house fire, and getting hit by motor vehicle. There were also 12 deaths that could not be classified. This is a grand total of 849 deaths caused by child abuse and neglect in 1998. The rate of child abuse and neglect fatalities reported by NCANDS has been rising over the last several years from 1.84 per 100,000 children in 2000 to 1.96 in 2001 and 1.98 in 2002. The 2001 report also showed that children ranging from age 0-1 year were accounted for 40.9 percent of all fatalities. 84.5 percent of maltreatment-related fatality cases were age six and under. 35.6 percent of child fatalities resulted from neglect alone, 26.3 percent from physical abuse alone, and 21.9 percent from both neglect and physical abuse. 82.8 percent of these child fatalities were the result of maltreatment by one or both parents. Mothers acting alone accounted 32.4 percent of child abuse and neglect related fatalities. The children ranging from zero to age three are the most frequent victims of child fatalities. Along with the 2001 NCANDS data, in 2002 children younger than 1 year accounted for 41 percent of fatalities, while children younger than 4 years accounted for 76 percent of fatalities. This population of children is the most vulnerable for many reasons, including their dependency, small size, and inability to defend them selves. However, in these evaluations of data, experts do not agree whether this is an actual increase in child abuse and neglect fatalities, or whether it may be due to improvements in reporting deaths and suspicions. For example, statistics on approximately 20 percent of fatalities in 2002 were reported from health departments and fatality review boards, compared to 11.4 percent for 2001, an indication of greater attention directed towards the issue and better organization of the data that was collected among agencies has obviously been handled with a little more relevancy.

The statistics above bring to my attention that society has as much responsibility in contributing to child abuse as the person that is actually committing the act of abuse. It is a vicious cycle that can be stopped, but has not been stopped for reasons discussed below. Massive numbers of children are affected by these heinous crimes who live on to possibly become abusers themselves. The hatred is passed on to further generations, and with out even noticing, society turns its back and uses the irresponsible excuse "what happens behind closed doors is none of my business." The fact of the matter is, that children have been have been forced to accept being punished for the sick pleasures of others through intimidation, isolation, and guilt.

I have been reading a book called A Child Called "It". This is the story of a young boy named David Pelzer who, in order to survive, must triumph over the truly horrendous abuse inflicted by his mother. The excessive use of alcohol plays an important role in the abuse by the mother as well as the lack of the courage to intervene by David's father, brothers, neighbors, teachers, and the world around him. Dave considered the abuse he endured by his mother "games," because of the way she intensified and experimented with his punishments. However, he always tried to be one small step ahead of her, bracing himself for what would come the next day. He became immune to the pain of beatings. After a while he just took what she gave or "played along," and didn't show any form of weakness to let her "win."

The neglect and abuse he endured set him in the category of one of the worst child abuse cases in California. Dave was starved and endured many beatings for accepting food, and if any food were consumed, cruel and unusual punishments would be used to extract the food from his almost lifeless body. No one noticed the obvious signs of beatings and neglect on a little boy wasting away from hunger. Why isn't the world punished for not noticing and not caring enough to act on their suspicions correctly? In a way, I think, all people living in David's world believed his mother, but they allowed themselves to buy into her lies, close their eyes and prolong the torment. They



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