There is probably nothing that drives me to anger more than hearing stories of abused children. It is the one exception that I make to my opposition to capital punishment, making an allowance for those who murder children; a difficult deviation from my stand against the death penalty that is driven by my faith. There is just something so heinous about harming an innocent child that I have difficulty finding an ounce of forgiveness in my heart for those who would commit such a wicked act.
This week I came across two articles in New Jersey newspapers detailing acts of cruelty against children. In one, an 8 year-old was discovered dead, badly bruised and malnourished, and her two siblings, one 6 and the other 7, also emaciated. The girl’s mother and her female roommate have been criminally charged in the matter. In the other case, an 8 year-old girl, weighing only 8 pounds, was found with open wounds in a home where she was allegedly tied to bedposts and doorknobs with bootlaces. One of her arms may have to be amputated. She and three siblings were living in squalor, surrounded by rotten food and feces. The mother and her boyfriend are being held in custody.
In too many of these cases, the woman is involved with a “man” of extremely low moral character; seldom married to the co-abuser and virtually emotionally dependent in an abusive relationship. The children in the household are discarded like yesterday’s trash and in many cases are preyed upon and eventually killed. Though there was not a man directly involved in the abuse described in the first incident, a man, a spiritual adviser to the mother, allegedly held sway over her and subsequently she transformed into someone her own sister no longer recognized. In the second instance, a man, apparently not the father of the children in the house is the alleged accomplice.
How a mother could abuse her child, and let a man do the same, is beyond comprehension. Yet, it happens with tragic frequency. These men, who my grandmother would probably label “trifling” if she were alive, are leeches and predators. Rather than succumb to the selfishness and debased behavior of these men, single mothers need to leave their crazy @ss*s alone. And if they are not strong enough to cut the cord, family and friends of women in these situations need to step up and show them the way. Now in some instances, the mother is a willing abuser of her child, but too frequently a man stands in the shadows as the catalyst and accomplice.
Just as maddening is the seeming ignorance of family, friends and neighbors to the abuse of children in a household. All too often the reaction of neighbors is disbelief when a case of child abuse comes to light, despite the acknowledgment that the children had not been seen for some time, have been missing from the normal routines of child play, or have been absent from school. It seems everyone can see all the “business” on the block, relay the latest gossip, yet miss some tell-tale signs that children are being abused under their very noses. It sadly proves my insistence that children are an afterthought in our society; an inconvenience, even to those blessed with the responsibility to care for them.
While I know that child abuse is not isolated to any one community, the most recent stories I am citing occurred in Black households. I mention that because the subject of child abuse is still taboo in the Black community; with many abusers living in plain sight, known to all and many victimizing family members. Yet, there is silence, denial and claims of ignorance when the case of an abused child comes to light. Our children deserve better and adults in our community should know better. There is absolutely no excuse and no excuse should be tolerated for neighbors who stick their heads in the sand.
I can’t leave out child protection agencies from condemnation, state agencies like the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) in New Jersey that are charged with keeping children safe. These agencies also bear responsibility for the incidence of child abuse, often missing important signs and leaving children exposed in houses of horror. At some point state child protection officials need to be held responsible when their failure to recognize and address instances of child abuse results in serious injury to a child or tragically, death. Too many excuses are made while children are being abused and murdered.
I believe there is a particularly hot corner of hell awaiting those who abuse children, and that in the instances described above, the adults involved have earned an express ride there.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.