If you look up the words “terrorist” and “abuser” in the dictionary you may find the descriptions horrifyingly similar. According to Dictionary.com, the definition of a terrorist is: 1. a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism. 2. a person who terrorizes or frightens others. The Dictionary.com definition of an abuser is: 1. A person, [usually a member of a family,] who wrongly or improperly misuses one’s authority. 2. a person who treats others in a harmful, injurious, or offensive way. 3. a person who speaks insultingly, harshly, and unjustly to or about; revile; malign. 4. a person who commits sexual assault.
Interesting still, the term “terrorize” is described as: 1. to fill with terror, terrify. 2. to coerce, make submit by filling with terror, as by the use or threat of violence.
How can the United States place so much time, energy, and money on overseas terrorism when terrorism is happening every night and day in millions of homes across America? The National Child Abuse Hotline (NCAH) estimates that every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children (a referral can include multiple children). The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.
A REPORT OF CHILD ABUSE IS MADE EVERY TEN SECONDS IN THE U.S.
NCAH also states that around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involve at least one parent as perpetrator.
Isn’t this terrorism? Terrorism in our homes? What are we going to do about all the perpetrators in our country who are terrorizing children every day? And the cost! NCAH says for new cases in 2008 alone, lifetime estimates of lost worker productivity, health care costs, special education costs, child welfare expenditures and criminal justice expenditures added up to $124 billion dollars. Just imagine — we could send 1.7 million children to college for $124 billion dollars. What a downright shame!
Child abuse is a plague in our communities with so many people refusing to acknowledge and do something about this outrageous issue. Young children are being hurt by the very people who should love and protect them. And because child abuse is so hideous, the issue continues to grow in secret. Child abuse affects families of all economic levels and color. Yes, white kids are abused, too! In fact, the American Humane Association cites that in 2005, 49.7 percent of children who were maltreated were white, 23.1 percent were African American, and 17.4 percent were Hispanic. Yet, these percentages mean nothing to the children being harmed.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University estimates in a 2005 report that substance abuse is a factor in 70 percent of all reported cases of child maltreatment. One of the major reasons children enter foster care is abuse and neglect associated with parental alcohol and drug abuse (USDHHS, 1999). Drugs and alcohol play a huge role and yet, child abuse remains a secret.
My own father was an alcoholic. His parents owned a bar and he started drinking at an early age. He learned that if he was drunk his bad behavior was easily excused. “Oh the whiskey made me do it.” “I drank too much and can’t remember what I did.” By putting the blame on alcohol and drugs, many perpetrators feel their actions can be blamed on something other than themselves. We never hear perpetrators say, “I threw my son down the steps,” or “I kicked my daughter and she hit the wall with her head.” Rather than admitting they were angry or pissed off, perpetrators look for an excuse.
Throwing, kicking, slapping, pushing, hanging, raping, kidnapping, bruising, hurling, cutting, ignoring, neglecting, and hitting are all clear signs of abuse whether it happens once or many times. Thankfully, more and more doctors, nurses, and emergency personnel are becoming more alert to possible signs of child abuse.
Violence affects children and they grow into adults that live in fear. Is this what we want for our children – fear? No, we want to give them love and support while they journey through the maze of life. Aren’t we the guide posts they lean on? Aren’t we the guard rails keeping them from slipping off a cliff? Aren’t we the peacemakers who show them acceptance above ignorance? Aren’t we their mentors and motivators? Aren’t we their heroes? If not, we should be.
We need to hear children’s voices and the voices of adult children. And when these voices are filled with terror, we need to address their pain and find ways to alleviate the terror. Our world is affected by how these children and adult children view our world. If they view our world as an evil place they will run and hide. We need these children and adult children to raise their voices to stop child abuse once and for all.
Safe Places and Experiences for Abused Kids (S.P.E.A.K.-O.U.T.)™ offers these guiding principles in recovering from child abuse and neglect must be stopped and your voice is so vital in making this end for all children.
- Put responsibility for healing on YOU. It’s up to you and only you to seek help in coping with your nightmares. If your parents abused you they are not the ones to help you heal.
- Expose and take action. You’re NOT responsible for being abused. Your perpetrator(s) is/are responsible.
- Ask for help. Your life is worth saving even though you were told you are worthless. Don’t believe these false statements from your parents or siblings.
- Keep yourself safe. Child abuse is a family nightmare. The child who yells out against ill treatment is often scorned by other siblings. Go against the flow and get help for yourself.
- Open yourself up to reality. Many times you may think that you’re making up the abuse, but that’s how our minds try and reduce the severity of our abuse. Be brave and trust your instincts.
- Understand that you are not alone. Coping with and recovering from abuse is a long journey but you’re not alone. Seek others who have successfully survived what you have. They’re out there.
- Trust yourself. You couldn’t trust your parents but you can trust yourself. You have good judgment about your story. You are not a liar!
Seek out professional help if your life is in danger. Therapists are trained to help you find your true self and help heal your wounds. No, you don’t have to suffer a lifetime for what your perpetrator did to you. You have every right to heal. You must heal. Your life is important and you bring unique skills to your survival. Remember this: no one can heal like you can.
Please share Part 1 and 2 blogs with your friends and family. It’s time to expose the secret of child abuse. The abuse of kids is killing our future. If you believe in children, then believe that you have the right and the commitment to correct this wrong. Do it today! In the five minutes you’ve been reading this blog 30 reports of child abuse have been made. Isn’t this terrorism?