Some things are difficult to write about and writing this column is tough. I hate to see the elderly, animals, and children abused, particularly, the latter, so, when I hear allegations, and they are just allegations, until proven in a court of law and not a court of public opinion, that people in professional positions might have abused kids, it is upsetting.
I live on a middle class street. The lawns are manicured and the mixture of people is diverse: Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic. It is the quietest street I have ever lived in even though kids are out playing all over the place during the week and less during the weekend because most are involved in sports leagues of some kind.
Just to see how nice my neighborhood is, I decided to go online to see if they are any sexual predators lurking in my zip code. You, too, can check the Megan's Law Sex Offender Reports on the internet. My zip code covers a large area, so I thought, at most, I would find maybe six or seven, so I checked on "locate predators" and the number 138 popped-up. I almost died when I saw it. Are things this bad?
Child Abuse (according to federal law) is an act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in the serious physical or emotional harm or even death. It can also involve exploitation which places the child in imminent harm.
The definition is a lot more complicated than it seems. There are a lot of legal, religious and emotional implications because the rights of the parents of children to discipline and raise are weighed against the state's and society’s desires.
Getting back to the law, California law, to be more specific (P.C. 11164-11174.3), comes down pretty strong because this is the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Law. It gets into physical, psychological, and sexual abuse and the reporting of such abuse to government. It lists the "reporters" specifically as teachers, aides, school employee, counselors, cops, docs, etc. I did not see the persons who should be the primary reporters: parents.
Parents entrust the most precious possessions, their children, in the hands of others all day long. They expect the priest, the teacher, the coach, and the neighbors to not "hit” their children and abuse them. Nevertheless, the primary person responsible for the care of a child is his or her parents.
When I hear and read about abuse alleging to have gone on for years, I wonder: where are the parents? Childhood is hard. You, as we all know, go through some weird changes psychologically, mentally, and physically. It is a wonder that some of us got through it, including yours truly, however, there are some telltale signs that something is wrong and parents cannot leave it to other "reporters" to notice it.
Here are few things that a parent or caretaker should notice that may indicate that something is amiss and there may be sexual abuse occurring: inappropriate interest in sexual acts, reluctance to dress or undress in front of others, more displays of aggression, fear of certain people or family members, spending a lot of time online (not supervised), gifts or money from unknown people, and the child becomes withdrawn among other things.
If you, as a parent, primarily, or as a "reporter" suspect or know of sexual (or other child) abuse you can call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD) and get guidance. You can also call the local cops (LAPD, Sheriff's Dept.) to report what you believe.
Parents: be a comfort to your kids. Listen to them and don't freak out when they hint or tell of their abuse. Even better, be cognizant of things that I have mentioned and act when your instincts and brain tell you that something is terrible is happening to your kid. It is a human life you have created that you are dealing with.
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