Child Abuse: Crisis in America
In America, child abuse is growing at epidemic proportions and has increased at the rate of 114.3% from 1.4 million cases in 1986 to 3 million cases in 1997 (Califano). Although society is aware of this tragic problem, little has been done to remedy the situation. In fact, American males spend more money on cosmetic improvements such as hairpieces, make-up, and surgery than is currently being spent on programs for battered and neglected children (Califano). The time has come to put an end to this horrifying plague attacking America s youth.
Child abuse can be categorized into four different areas: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and neglect. Victims of physical abuse suffer injuries that range in seriousness from bruises to broken bones, all a result of this heinous crime. Emotional abuse is perhaps the most difficult to detect yet often causes the most disabling and lasting injury making the child to feel unloved, unworthy, and often enraged (Morales). Sexual abuse may be inflicted upon children of all ages as they are forced to participate in unwanted sexual activity. Neglected children are those who are abandoned or left alone for long periods of time or those who do not receive adequate levels of medical care and nourishment (Morales). Each year in the United States, 1,500,000 children are moderately to seriously abused (Morales). These hideous acts are terrifying experiences resulting in more deaths than all car wrecks, fires, or accidental injuries combined (Simmons).
In four out of five cases of child abuse, the abuser is the child s own parent (Edmonds). Many of these instances are the result of parents who were abused themselves growing up, or parents with low self-esteem and poor parenting skills (Faull). Poverty is the leading factor in determining the families in which abuse occurs. Another contributor to this situation is drug and alcohol use, which undermines adults ability to function in many areas (Morales). Children of drug abusers are more likely to be abuse victims than those with parents who do not use illegal substances. The U.S. General Accounting Office recently concluded a study confirming that drugs and alcohol were a factor in more than three-quarters of all foster care replacements (Alexander). Despite popular belief, not all of these perpetrators are males. The mother, who faces the daily responsibility of caring for her offspring, is more often guilty of neglect than the father. However, nearly all cases of sexual abuse are committed by the father (Morales). Other contributing factors, which create a less than ideal situation in the home, are poor lifestyle choices and lack of education (Simmons).
The victims of child abuse usually end up as abusers themselves or in need of psychiatric care. There are many characteristics of abused children, which can aid in determining if such a case has occurred. A child who fears adults, uses profane language, frequently is tardy or truant at school, or often avoids or runs away from home could be one who is continually mistreated (Faull). Such an individual can do much harm to himself, to others, or to the environment. For example, those adolescents who set fires, sexually abuse others, torture animals, or attempt suicide are often victims of child abuse (Alexander). In 1996, studies done by child protective service agencies concluded that one million children were identified as victims of either substantiated or indicated abuse or neglect, an estimated 18% increase from those reported in 1990 (Hwang). These ill-treated youth can often be recognized by the acts they commit against society, directed toward other individuals or their surroundings.
The effects of child abuse can be devastating, both to the victim and to the many others associated with his life. If detected early, the results won t be nearly as harsh or long lasting. Often called the silent epidemic, child abuse and neglect cases have been determined to be more numerous and severe than is currently being conveyed (Stevens). In fact, a Gallup Poll stated that instances of physical abuse were 16 times greater than the rates reported, and those of sexual abuse were 10 times greater (Stevens). Many who have been mistreated turn to crime, substance abuse, prostitution, or may run away (White/Quanto). Ninety percent of males imprisoned for felonies were abused as children, as were seventy percent of teen-age drug abusers and ninety-five percent of teen-age prostitutes (Simmons). According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, victims of abuse or neglect are forty percent more likely to be arrested as juvenile delinquents and adult criminals, and three times as likely to steal, as a result of drug and alcohol use (Stevens). The sufferers of this maltreatment, who may be described as time bombs waiting to happen, experience many consequences that are extremely overwhelming and life threatening (Alexander).
Though child abuse may seem difficult to overcome, there are many remedies that can minimize the harmful effects. The present system currently being used, which includes the Child Abuse Reporting Law, the watchful eye of the community over families who are abusing their young, and the removal of children from abusive households, has proven to be limited and often ineffective in fighting child abuse (Morales). Along with the advances in our technology have come a statewide computerized tracking system for substantiated child abuse and neglect cases and hot lines that mistreated children can call for emotional support and advice (White/Quanto). Placement in foster homes, family preservation programs, and home visitation have helped improve the environment of these disadvantaged youth and kept the problem from escalating too rapidly (Edmonds). President Clinton determined that the process of punishing the abusers should be changed to put more perpetrators in prison rather than into treatment, which does relatively little to help the children (Califano). Additionally, community organizations must create family centers to be a resource for parents of children of all ages. These centers would provide a variety of programs such as information on parenting, babysitting services and support groups, all of which will lay a foundation for the prevention of child abuse (Morales).
Out of every one hundred children in the United States alone, 2.3 will be abused. If this problem continues to grow at this incredible rate, soon one out of every ten babies will be abused before they reach adulthood (Morales). The victims are not only the children themselves, but society as a whole. America has to put an end to this horrible mistreatment of our future generation.
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