Sophia enters the house with a blank look on her face and trembling with fear. She hesitantly hands her mother a note from her guidance counselor then steadies herself for the forceful assault. She shields her head with her tiny hands as she agonizingly awaits the beating. Her mother realizes how she is frightening her daughter so, she antagonizes her further by hurling insults at the child. Sophia sprints out of the house and runs into oncoming traffic. Her mother follows closely behind, pulls her out of harm’s way, and then slaps her down onto the pavement. Sophia strikes her head on the sidewalk and is knocked unconscious. A witness of the brutal occurrence calls the police, and an ambulance is dispatched to the residence. The poor child is taken to the hospital where she later dies from her injuries. The pain and trauma this child experienced represents a great percentage of child victims in American culture today. Unfortunately, this abuse occurs in the United States regularly thus causing dramatic economic, political, and social changes within our borders.
Child abuse has an extensive past and has possibly existed since the beginning of time. Children born in times past were property and therefore the laws did not protect them from being harmed. It was not until the 1870s that child maltreatment caught the nation’s attention when eight-year-old New York native Mary Ellen Wilson was suffering beatings at the hands of her foster parent. When Mary Ellen’s case went before a judge, her foster mom received a one-year jail sentence for assault and battery. This case produced enough concern over child abuse that the state of New York formed the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1874. Cruelty to children occurs when a “parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child under the age of eighteen.” (Understanding social problems)
The mistreatment of a child is anything that places a youth at harm or at risk of being harmed. It is also a violence that could leave a child mentally and physically scarred for the rest of their lives. There are several types of abuse which include emotional, physical, and sexual to name a few. In today’s world, one out of five children have experienced an abuse and on average, between four and seven children die at the hands of their caregivers daily.(www.childhelp.org) Yearly, over three-million reports of child abuse are made in the United States which affects Americans economically in enormous numbers. According to a press release by the Centers for Disease Control, the “total lifetime costs of new cases of child maltreatment will cost taxpayers $124 billion dollars, sexually-transmitted diseases will cost over $1.5 billion attributed to child sexual abuse, and $2 billion of teen pregnancy credited to child sexual abuse.” Although some costs are straightforward and directly related to abuse, such as hospital costs for medical treatment of injuries sustained as a result of physical abuse and foster care costs resulting from the removal of children when they cannot remain safely with their families.
Other costs, less directly tied to the incidence of abuse, include lower academic achievement, adult criminality, and possibly lifelong mental health problems. The emotional price paid by an abused child is immeasurable. It is a subtraction of faith, trust, and self-worth that robs their heart’s account from the moment of abuse until a time when therapy, support, and love replace what was taken from them. Surveys taken in North America that ask adults to recall their childhood show that almost forty percent of girls in their youth were subjected to emotional abuse before their teenage years. Different forms of abuse are often overlooked by family members, friends, and many health professionals. Some may feel it is not their business to interfere in personal situations while others fear retaliation from caregivers.
Also, harming children may have serious future consequences for its victims, including delays in physical growth, emotional instability, and personality development. Vindictiveness to youngsters has several causes that initially stem from the parent or guardian being abused themselves during their childhood. Often, child survivors choose not tell anyone because they assume there is nothing they can do to stop the abuser or they do not know how. Thankfully, the media and political figures has played a vital role in the construction of child abuse advocacy. The issue has raised awareness across a range of political debates, news programs, and films thereby reaching a variety of audiences. National strategies and goals has also been set in place in order to combat child abuse. Many faith-based organizations, law officials, public groups, schools, and local and state legislatures have all taken a stand to help make their communities aware of different types of abuse by creating forums, websites, editorial letters, and so forth.
Child abuse prevention is not a matter of caregivers improving their parenting skills, but rather is about creating an environment in which society works together to end the problem. It also remains important to remind Americans of the negative economic, social, and, political impact of abuse. Child maltreatment are serious threats to a juvenile’s healthy cognitive development, self-worth, and physical growth. Parental figures can accept personal responsibility for ending cruelty by providing a provision to each other and offering protection to all children within their family and community. When the problem is owned by all people and societies, prevention will evolve, and fewer children will remain in jeopardy.