Abuse is too commonplace

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 29, 2007

My life changed forever on August 29, 2002.

It was on that day, well late that night actually, that Alex Brandon White was born on this earth in Chowan Hospital in Edenton.

To say his mother’s life and mine will never be the same is an almost laughable understatement.

In the four years that have followed, I have grown to love my son more deeply that I thought possible. I love him more every day. That little boy is the apple of my eye and my main motivation for getting out of bed every day.

I brought up what should be an obvious statement any parent would make because of a song I’ve heard recently on the radio.

The song, which I believe is called “Alyssa Lies,” tells about a child living through and then dying from abuse.

The songwriter’s daughter tells him, “Alyssa lies to the classroom. Alyssa lies every day at school. Alyssa lies to the teachers as she tries to cover every bruise.”

I haven’t listened to the song a single time that I haven’t cried riding down the road. It touches a chord deep inside of me and, I hope, deep inside every parent.

Child abuse isn’t a foreign subject to me. It isn’t something I’ve just read about in books or seen on television. Just to be clear, I was never, never abused, but I’ve known children and young people that were.

I’ve known children that almost died n beautiful children that never hurt anyone n because someone abused them. I’ve known teenagers that had to wear certain clothing to school so as not to reveal bruises.

I will never understand people that abuse their children. I don’t know what could push someone from simple discipline to acts that threaten the health and well-being of their own children.

My church had a guest speaker Sunday who runs a home for children whose parents are incarcerated. He told us about two children who were taken by their mother after her jail time was completed.

Two months later, the children were returned to the center because the mother was back in jail. A once happy and contend child cried constantly. To make a long story short, the child was given cocaine to keep her quiet during the entire two months she was with her mother.

Is that normal? I certainly hope it isn’t, but I do know that child abuse is rampant in this country.

According to statistics on about.com, each week Child Protective Services agencies throughout the country are bombarded with 50,000 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. In 2002, 2.6 million reports concerning the welfare of approximately 4.5 million children were made.

In 67 percent of those cases, the information provided was sufficient to launch an investigation.

One of my favorite quotes has always been: “What can you say about a society that says Elvis is alive and God is dead?” I’m guessing one thing you can say about that society is that it doesn’t take care of its children.

An article on helpguide.org calls child abuse “both shocking and commonplace.” I think that may also be an understatement.

The problem with child abuse is we don’t know who the people are that are capable of committing it. Sometimes the people we may look at and think “they might beat their kids” are the best parents on the planet.

Abusers are not necessarily one race, one size, one shape or of one religious or social view point.

According to personalalarms.com, “What we do know is that abusers can come from any background, race, religion, culture, age, gender and any intelligence, education or income level.”

The report goes on to say, “Many child abusers hold positions of trust, are skilled, get good performance appraisals in their work, and are perceived by others as being committed to children and families.”

My point is that child abusers come in all walks of life. They can be rich. They can be poor. They could be people that hold your trust in offices, garages or even classrooms every day. They could be your family members.

No one wants to believe someone they know, trust and maybe even love could do such a horrible thing. In fact, we hate the thought someone we don’t care about could do such a horrible thing.

If we love children and I believe most of us in the region do, we must be on the lookout for those children who are being abused and neglected. We need to take care of our own.

I urge you that if you know of a child or children, who are being abused or neglected, contact your local Department of Social Services. They care and they want to help.

If you are uncomfortable calling someone locally, contact 1-800-4-A-Child for the Childhelp National Child Abuse hotline.