Did You Know That FIVE Children Will DIE From Child Abuse and Neglect Today – Or that Every 13 Seconds a Child is Abused in the U.S.?
August 25, 2013
During a recent presentation and book signing event at Book Passages in Corte Madera in Marin County, California, a member of the audience asked me a question that I hadn’t been asked before: “What should we do if we are aware of domestic violence and/or child abuse in a family?”
I reflected on this for a moment and replied that in circumstances where a professional person such as a teacher or a doctor or clergy becomes aware of child abuse (or elder abuse or domestic violence), it is their professional responsibility to report this to authorities. Why should our response be any different?
Earlier, I had given a presentation/workshop at Marin Advocates for Children CASA, and a participant asked me if when I was growing up had there been any teacher, clergy member or family member who had suspected the abuse and reported it.
Recently I’ve spoken to Beardsley relatives who have shared with me that they suspected, even knew about the abuse in the Beardsley household, but felt powerless to do anything. And as I write in the book, Frank Beardsley made sure that my mother’s family and the North relatives were not welcome, and they stayed away. But they too, knew.
I sure would have appreciated an adult intervening in my life when I was a child subjected to ongoing abuse in the “Yours, Mine and Ours” Beardsley household. Even when I went to the local Catholic Church for help, I was refused and told I was committing a sin by asking for help! How absurd is that! Of course, today the clergy would be legally required to report such a request to the police, but in the 1960’s there weren’t laws to protect children as there are now.
The fact is that child abuse, neglect and domestic violence is a very serious problem. Did you know that five children will die from child abuse or neglect today? Or that every 13 seconds a child is abused in the U.S. and that 80% of perpetrators are parents? Prevention of child abuse and neglect requires public education and investing in child abuse prevention programs.
Every day child abuse is in the news, including the recent story about little Damian Sutton, a 2-year old on life support after suffering from a horrific episode of physical abuse.
If there is a circumstance of even one human being suffering at the hands of another, we have a moral responsibility to do everything we can to correct the situation and reduce the suffering. Child abuse is any act that endangers a child’s physical or emotional health and development – neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse.
How do we report and verify abuse? Domestic violence and child abuse may not be apparent all the time, but we know it when we see it. While there may be issues arising for social agencies around reporting and substantiation, what we need to do as compassionate human beings is ask, “Where is the love?” If we see fear, anxiety and signs of neglect in children we are in proximity to, there could well be an abusive environment. If we observe actual physical, mental and emotional abuse happening, then it is imperative that we report this to the proper authorities, whether that is the police, child protective services or CASA.
National CASA for Children is an association of nearly 1,000 programs across the U.S. Chances are, there is one in your community. When CASA can reach a child in need, his or her life changes for the better. I am dedicated to helping children who are abused and neglected, and I’m now an Official Supporter of National CASA.
If you live in another country, seek out the social agencies that can help. Here are more resources:
Department of Health & Human Services
World Health Organization
International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect