Think about these numbers a bit:
In 2019, there were 656,243 reported cases of child abuse, and the most common form of maltreatment in the U.S. was neglect.
One is too many. Those are the latest statistics, and I’m dreading what’s going to come out as far as 2020 is concerned. There are no solid numbers to go by as far as last year is concerned, but experts agree that may be because students were not in school — and teachers, counselors and other medical professionals didn’t have the opportunity to check and report unexplained bruises, aggressive behavior, drastic change in eating habits, etc.
Economics also play a vital role — rising unemployment because of the pandemic have increased the risk of neglect and abuse, recent studies have shown.
Despite anecdotal information on how the numbers for 2020 might end up, the absence of reliable reports puts the whole data sphere in somewhat of disarray.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month — child abuse includes physical, emotional, sexual and psychological abuse. President Ronald Reagan made the designation in 1983. In the 38 years since, cases have grown significantly.
Child abuse, sadly, remains common worldwide.
According to the Administration for Children and Families, 1,840 children in the U.S. died from abuse and neglect in fiscal year 2019 compared to an estimated 1,780 children who died in fiscal year 2018.
• Of the 3,476,000 (rounded) children who were the subject of an investigation or alternative response in fiscal year 2019, 656,000 (rounded) children were determined to be victims of maltreatment, down from 677,000 (rounded) victims in 2018.
• Most victims, 84.5%, suffered from a single type of maltreatment, and 15.5% suffered from two or more types of maltreatment.
• The most common single maltreatment type was neglect with 61%, followed by physical abuse with 10.3%.
• The number of child fatalities due to child abuse and neglect increased by 60 in fiscal year 2019.
No child deserves to be subjected to these horrific acts. Some adults who were victims of abuse are now abusers themselves and many former victims indeed have learned lessons from the past, but are scarred by those events forever.
Physical abuse has also been proven to cause emotional and psychological strain.
Imagine being a child subjected to so much physical and mental agony that you now constantly look over your shoulders, always on guard to whatever you have and always suspicious of people’s motives. You pass time working your tail off to keep your mind busy.
This kid’s punishment is not your customary grounding. They include kneeling on raw rice — or sharp mung beans — with arms stretched sideways for about an hour as his buddies were forced to watch, tears falling on his face.
The “bad thing” he did was miss lunch because he lost track of time playing with his friends.
Imagine punishment involving a studded, thick and wide 1970s leather belt on your buttocks and back — a common occurrence while being told you have brought nothing but heartache since you were born.
How about being repeatedly beaten with a bamboo broom handle which left marks all over the body? Up to this day the sight of the child’s arms brings much pain deep inside.
To add insult to injury, the child’s favorite toy was broken in half in a fit of rage. Since then, the kid kept his toys in their original boxes and never played with them — he kept them in a locked closet.
There were no cries for help, but nights brought much needed solitude for the child to be able to ask God why.
Those were just a few “punishment” examples that kid endured during his childhood.
I’m sure there were quite a few adults who saw the marks on the child’s arms and legs, but didn’t say anything. Some even witnessed the ordeal, but did nothing.
Everyone was silent.
Prevention, awareness, reporting and education are catalysts to change in this fight.
Last week, blue and silver pinwheels were planted in front of the McCracken County Courthouse by Child Watch Counseling and Advocacy Center and CASA of West Kentucky employees and volunteers to kick off the month.
“I think so many times when there are things that are uncomfortable to people, they would rather forget they exist,” Liz Hansen, volunteer coordinator for CASA of West Kentucky, told one of our reporters.
Pinwheels: Simple objects with a powerful message.
Child abuse prevention or awareness does not only happen every April. It’s every day, and we, as a civilized society, need to be vigilant.
The child in this story has grown up to be an advocate for non-violence — in all its meaning.
It has taken a long time for that boy to forgive. He’s done being silent.
I can still find him.
All I have to do is look in the mirror.
John Mangalonzo is the editor of The Paducah Sun. You can email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @jmangalonzo.