The statistics are staggering.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 1,640 children in the United States died from maltreatment in 2012. Of those, 70 percent were children younger than 3.
Most of the assailants, at 40 percent, were 25 to 34 years old. Women made up 54 percent of the perpetrators.
The CDC figures show that 4.7 percent of victims were black compared to 1.7 percent for Hispanics and 1.6 for non-Hispanic whites. Most kids, 70 percent, died from neglect, followed by 44 percent from physical abuse either exclusively or in combination with another form of maltreatment.
These are 1,640 kids who won’t graduate from high school, attend college, date, fall in love, get married and become parents. And that’s just from 2012 — and the ones we know about.
As a crime reporter for going on 30 years, I have covered too many trials involving the murder of a child. As the mother of four kids, I always marvel at how someone can lash out in anger at a frail, helpless, defenseless child.
I’ve seen autopsy photos and I’ve heard medical examiners describe internal injuries. I’ve also heard police statements from defendants swearing they had nothing to do with the child’s death — despite the fact that no one else had contact with the victim for hours leading up to his or her death.
Who else could it have been?
I would assume that no one wants to admit to having taken the life of a young child or baby. After all, what does that say about the suspect? He or she is a coward? He or she picks on the most vulnerable in our society? He or she snuffed out the life of a person before it even began? He or she killed their own flesh and blood?
As I sit in court, I wonder, what did the child do to attract so much violence? Most victims can’t even talk yet, let alone talk back. Some can’t even walk yet so they couldn’t have missed curfew. Kids that young just do whatever adults around them tell them to do.
I understand anger between adults. I’ve been angry. I don’t know anyone over 21 who hasn’t been at one time or another. I don’t get the anger of an adult toward a child. The adult has the power. Send the child to his room. Spank him. Spank, not beat, if you must. Turn over care to someone else for a few hours. Walk outside and cool off during his naptime.
I would even venture to say it is better to leave the child in the house alone than take your frustrations out on him. It’s not optimal but it’s the better alternative.
Get away. Get help. Call someone. Everyone and his brother has a cell phone and access to the Internet. Everyone, even people without incomes manage to have cell phones. If you are getting assistance, tell your caseworker you are experiencing frustrations dealing with a child. Tell a neighbor, a relative, a friend.
There’s no shame in getting or asking for help. There is a great deal of pain and grief in causing the death of a child because you just can’t handle your emotions.
The person with whom you leave your child for any length of time is the second-most important person in your life. Just because someone is the love of your life doesn’t make him or her quality baby-sitting material. That person is due as much scrutiny as you’d give anyone you’d leave alone with your child. Anyone. Trust your instincts and watch your child interact with that person. Trust your child to know with whom he or she feels safe.
Of course, if you don’t care about any of this, your child has no chance anyway.