CRIME VICTIMS SERVICES – CHILD ABUSE
Approximately six children are reported abused and neglected in America every minute (more than 3 million abuse reports a year). (National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse)
More than half the child victims of rape or sexual assault are age 12 or younger. (US Dept. of Justice)
Young children are more likely to die of child abuse or neglect in the Phoenix metropolitan area than any other major metropolitan area in the country. (Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine)
“Victims of child sex abuse are slowly and systematically trapped in an inescapable prison of silence using psychological blackmail and threats of violence against the child or their family. Pedophiles use all the above methods in a process known as “grooming” to wrap their victims in a cocoon of fear where many lay trapped until the end of their adult life.
The statistics on child abuse are horrific. The CDC estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. Worldwide 550 million children are survivors of child abuse according to the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare. Research has shown that an average victim of child sex abuse has to tell at least seven adults before being believed. According to the Journal for the American Medical Association, only 1 in 20 cases of child abuse are reported. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that there are currently 617,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, and typically 100,000 of those are unaccounted for. Other pedophiles are not on records or in databases. Pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky walk silently among us, and Sandusky showed us just how well they disguise themselves.”
For as long as I can remember, a little voice inside of me has told me that I need to be an advocate for children who need protection and justice, but until a few years ago, I wasn’t sure what that really meant. I never thought that I could make a difference, so like many others, I would write out checks to charities and that was the extent of my contribution, but that all changed the day I saw a news story air about a little girl who had lost her life while attending a new day care.
My friend and I had just closed my boutique for the day, and the nightly news was playing on the television set in the back room. My attention immediately shifted towards the television when I heard the news anchor talking about another child death in the Valley. The story described how a daycare worker in Phoenix had placed her hand over the mouth of a frightened , sobbing four-year-old girl to keep her from waking the other children during nap time. The small child was fighting for air as the daycare worker refused to remove her hand from the child’s face. The child was kicking, squirming and pushing to get free of the woman who was suffocating her, but she was too small and eventually her struggling siezed, and her little body was left lifeless on the floor.
This was a parents worst nightmare. How would a loving family face this tragic loss? The murder of an innocent child while left in the care of a trusted daycare facility is unimaginable, and was likely to end with the daycare closing and the worker responsible locked away in prison, or at least that is what might have happened had the child been from a loving family who would mourn her loss and fight for justice of their child.
The daycare worker was not charged for any wrongdoing in the child’s death. The death was ruled an accident and the woman responsible was free to harm more children.
They displayed the girl’s photo on the television as they reported the story, and her beautiful brown hair and perfect, little innocent face looked so much like my daughter who was also four years old at the time, and my heart started to ache as it filled with grief and anger for the loss of this child. How was it possible that no charges were filed? Was this really acceptable to allow something so heinous and unnecessary to happen to an innocent child?
The story went on to show a brief video interview with a man who was the child’s foster parent. He told the reporter that the little girl had no family or anyone that loved her. She was essentially an unwanted child and a burden on society. He explained how there was no need for an investigation or charges in her death. He wasn’t saying it because he thought it was right, but he was telling the reporter why her death would have no justice in his opinion. There was no one to fight for her. He said that she was a sweet little girl who didn’t deserve to die, but her life was not important to anyone, so her death was not important either. Although the man appeared sad at her loss, I couldn’t help but wonder why a single man was the foster parent to a four year old girl that had no family connection to her.
Why would the state of Arizona think that it would be in a child’s best interest to grow up in a home with a single man as her caregiver, and then do absolutely nothing when a daycare worker took the life of this innocent little girl? After the news story, I decided to do an investigation of my own to find answers that would justify the decision made by CPS, the criminal investigators and the Maricopa County Attorney’s office. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one detail of information related to what happened to the little girl. It seemed that the beautiful little girl had just faded away silently in the Arizona system of injustice without a trace. Regardless of how inconsequential the little girl was to the State and the community where she lived and died, her life would not go unnoticed or in vain, because I would be her voice that was silenced that day by the daycare worker’s deliberate actions that took her life.
Most of us never take notice of issues that have not impacted us personally, and I know that the little girl resembling my daughter was the reason that I finally made an effort to do something more. I wish it hadn’t taken this innocent child’s death to wake me up to the injustice of Arizona’s children, but it was the reason I am now an unwavering, vigilant voice for all the children in Arizona.
I began researching the child abuse epidemic in Arizona and shortly after discovering how serious of an issue it was in Arizona, I chose to close my boutique, so that I could utilize my resources for helping the children of Arizona. At the time it felt like a difficult choice, but I look back now and see it was actually a gift from God. After that, everything started to fall into place. I became actively involved with the Childhelp organization, and I knew instantly that Childhelp and its founders were also a gift from God.
Childhelp is one of the oldest and greatest defenders of abused children in the country. The founders of the organization, Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson are the only two reasons that anyone should need to support the organization. Their compassion and dedication to saving children from the horrors of abuse are unprecedented. They have devoted their entire adult lives to their work at Childhelp, and through their commitment and unyielding strength, nine million children have been saved from abuse.
Childhelp has proven to be a leading organization in saving, protecting and rebuilding the lives of abused children. The prevention programs, residential treatment facilities, 24 hour hotline, world renowned advocacy centers, foster care programs, and group homes are all established “For the Love of a Child” . My goal is to ensure that every child has a chance to grow up without living in fear and pain. If we can PREVENT child abuse by passing legislation that provides children ultimate protection by investing in prevention programs for at risk families and school districts, we can start to tackle this massive plague that destroys children and families every single day in Arizona. Visit Childhelp.org to learn more about the issue of child abuse.