Monday, June 14, 2010

Child Abuse, No Excuse

The has this report of the step-father charged with two felony counts of shooting his 10 year old step son with a paintball gun and kicking the child with steel toed boots. 

Often I report that I have tremendous pain and depression over some of the dark stories that I encounter at the local news websites that I review for stories on Bad Lawyer--this is bad, evil in fact, but not so nauseating that I can't talk about this story.  Unfortunately most of the stories that I shy away from profoundly hurt me and I wish I had not seen them--purely evil.  Like I've said about child porn, God forbid you've seen it--because once seen, you can't un-see it.  Darkness.  Black holes of pain and suffering.

The story of Step "father" at the IndyStar reminds me of something I saw as a long time ago.  Many years ago when I was briefly single, I had an apartment with a third story bedroom window that looked out on a short perpendicular cul de sac separating two rows of houses, that the local police had trouble patrolling thereby creating a weird pocket of drug houses and routine criminal activity in an otherwise nice suburb.  One 4th of July weekend I watched this toothless moron attired in a muscle shirt and smokeless tobacco baseball cap tossing fireworks down from a second floor balcony onto what turned out to be his step-children.  The children fled in tears, screaming--while he cackled.  I called the police--I had to be emphatic with the dispatcher that I was watching an assault and battery upon children by an adult.  The police did respond and did arrest the drunk "step father" who apparently been out on parole for less than a week.

In my career, I represented adult and child survivors of child sex abuse as well as physical abuse.  During that representation I had more than one client kill herself.  The civil law was a very poor mechanism for dealing with these crimes against children.  I was honored to have worked with some of the nationally-famous advocates; and I briefly served as a director on the OurTown Center for Prevention of Domestic Violence for which I am eternally grateful for the training and education.  In litigation I've taken many, many depositions of psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health care providers.  This education, you would think would help me square away my feelings, but it has not.  I used to be outraged, now I am I am more horrified.

Why are children abused by adults?   We know some of the answers.  Adults abused as children learn abuse, and when they grow up those adults abuse children.  Alcohol and drugs erase even minimal inhibitions.  If co-custodial adults and neighbors tolerate or ignore child abuse we enable it.  Then again there is evidence in today's news that we enable child abuse as a matter of foreign policy, check the photo on the front page of this AM's NYT, of two Somali children armed with assault weapons courtesy of US foreign aid.

Injuries from child abuse to children are terrible.  If the injuries were, only, physical!  Can you think of any more damaging way to abandon a child than to physically or sexually abuse a child?  I can't.  I amd my siblings know, personally. 

That we can do something about it and we don't--is there any defense to that?

1 comment:

  1. I have worked several jobs, where I was a state-mandated reporter, of child abuse. The first filing I had ever made brought me a feeling of great relief and the matter was handled appropriately. I was truly relieved to have the Department of Social Services (DSS) to call on. Then came another, obvious case of child abuse, to my attention. This time, I had a new director. She didn't want to make the report (even though it is required by law). I told her, if she didn't make the call, I would. Unfortunately, she called the parents FIRST, who immediately removed their child from the school, and took him home. By the time DSS was called, the parents had created a story for the bruises on this child's body. The parents withdrew the child from the school. This was the reason the director did not want to call. His withdrawal was a "drop" in enrollment and put her bonus in jeopordy. I think of this boy, from time to time, and remember the terror in his face. I hope and pray that someone will be intuitive enough to see the evil and do what is right for this child.