How does the abuse of children within a family become as severe and monstrous as the abuse in that happened in the “House of Horrors” in California? How did it progress that far? Why didn’t someone know? Why didn’t someone stop it? Sadly, there were signs, but those signs were ignored, while people looked the other way. Neighbors reportedly witnessed odd behaviors but nothing that seemed worthy of alerting authorities. One former neighbor in Texas reports finding a dead dog, a dead cat, dirty diapers piled nearly three feet high, padlocks on the refrigerator, the bathrooms, the closets, and ropes tied to the beds when the Turpins left Texas. One phone call after this discovery could have changed the course of the lives of these children, if only someone would’ve gotten involved. So what does this mean for the rest of us? What can we do about it? We can get involved where we see potential abuse happening. By alerting the authorities, we aren’t making an accusation, we are requesting that someone more qualified than we are look into the situation.
There are many reasons, or justifications we all make in order to turn the other way and avoid the confrontation that comes with acknowledging child abuse. I’ve made some of the same excuses that some of you probably have. I don’t want to make it worse. What if I’m wrong? I don’t want to hurt her feelings or make her think I am judging her. And the list goes on, but isn’t a child’s safety more important than your inconvenience? Isn’t a child’s health and well-being more important than someone else’s hurt feelings or embarrassment? Isn’t a child’s welfare more important than your level of discomfort?
In our country, children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving nearly 6 million children. The United States has the worst record in the industrialized nation – losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths. We can do better. Child abuse stops when WE stop it through prevention, intervention, and recovery.
Consider the following:
Children who experience child abuse & neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime.
3.6 million cases of child abuse are reported every year in the U.S. And the number of children involved in these reports is 6 million.
About 80 percent of 21-year-olds who were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
14 percent of all men and 36 percent of all women in prison were abused as children.
Abused children are less likely to practice safe sex, putting them at greater risk for STDs. They’re also 25 percent more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
Abused and neglected children are 11 times more likely to engage in criminal behavior as an adult.
Child abuse impacts us all – if you take a moment to consider the cost, the societal woes it creates, and the ripples that come from the source of both the abuser and the abused, you will come to realize that child abuse is everybody’s problem. Suspect child abuse? Please call 1-800-4-A-CHILD and ask for help with the next step. Together, we can stop abuse, but first we have to acknowledge it.
Editor, Ask Lala
Laura Fogarty writes “Ask Lala” for the Stop Abuse Campaign. She is a mother, an advocate and the author of two children’s abuse prevention books: I’M THE BOSS OF ME! and WE ARE JUST ALIKE!