During April, I received a mass e-mail from my Virginia state senator, Dick Saslaw, reminding me that it was National Child Abuse Prevention Month. I was shocked upon reading further in his e-mail about the prevalence of child abuse in our area.
According to Saslaw, “SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) reports that in 2017, more than 11,500 children were involved in reported cases of child abuse and neglect in our region.” And these are just the reported cases. We can all imagine that there are many more such cases that never go reported and in which children live sad, desperate, terrorized lives.
Also last month, national stories coming out of Illinois were detailing the beating death of five-year-old Andrew “AJ” Freund of Crystal Lake. Indicted on 41 criminal counts, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, the parents’ charges stated that “the murder was accompanied by exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty.” What this poor soul must have endured; he deserved so much better.
Imagine the complete and total living hell experienced by a child experiencing such horrific abuse. What was this little boy thinking while he was being beaten to death, knowing he had no hope of anyone rescuing him from such unjust torture?
Simultaneously, I was seeing several news stories about the measles outbreaks occurring in discrete U.S. communities. According to the CDC website, more than 700 cases were reported in the first four months of 2019.
The comparison of numbers made me think. If 11,500 children were mistreated in just our region in one year, then how many experience such terrible anti-parenting across the country? We would be talking about hundreds of thousands of children nationwide. Why is this not more of an epidemic or emergency along the lines of measles? Why are our elected leaders not focusing on this more in an effort to help suffering kids?
“Unfortunately, this issue can often fall under the radar in the Northern Virginia region,” Saslaw’s email says. Why? If the magnitude of child abuse is as great as SCAN reports — and there’s every reason to believe the scope is, in fact, even broader — then stopping child abuse should be a top priority. Yet, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it discussed in a political debate.
I don’t know the answer to proactively solving child abuse, other than encouraging people to report it if they suspect it.
Lately, I’ve been questioning whether we as a society are doing as much as we could be doing to protect children from the parents whose duty it is, ironically, to be protectors of their offspring. The status quo is completely unacceptable, albeit easy to ignore if it’s not taking place in one’s own home.