Child abuse has been defined as an act, or failure to act, on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child, or death. (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g)
Child abuse laws have raised difficult issues, pitting the rights of children against the rights of families and parents. The mistreatment of children at the hands of parents or caretakers has a long history of a system that gives children few, if any, rights.
About 40 million children worldwide suffer abuse every year, with more than 1,500 children dying of abuse in the United States annually and affects all educational and socioeconomic levels, ethnicities, cultures, and religions.
Many other important statistics regarding this problem in the United States include that it costs society more than $120 billion per year and that with more than 3 million referrals to state and local agencies every year, an average of six such referrals occur every 60 seconds!
Survivors of child abuse are at greater risk for physical, emotional, work, and relationship problems throughout childhood and into adulthood. Common forms of child abuse include neglect, physical assault and emotional abuse. But the most disturbing abuse is the sexual assault of a child.
It is important to understand that child abuse, whether physical, sexual or emotional, is not always immediately visible. Which is why when a child reports the abuse, often they are not believed. Victims of child abuse may experience so much stress in reaction to the abuse that it often leads to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (PTSD)
Often the adults who are designed to protect children refuse to take action because the perpetrator is a family member and they fear that doing so will split up the family unit. (And often does) Many times family members will support the perpetrator and accuse the victim of filing a false report, which causes even more stress for the victim.
Currently, the Nebraska Sex Offender Registration Law (SOR) does not have any restrictions on registered sex offenders. It does not have the legal jurisdiction to prevent an offender from attending events, limiting employment, restricting an offender from entering any facilities, or refrain from living with or socializing with children. The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information under statutes 29-4004 and 29-4006 at the sheriff’’s office within the required time. Even when a perpetrator of sexual child abuse is convicted, they are often only given probation and required to register as a sex offender for no more than 15 years. That means that someone who has been convicted of child sexual assault is able to freely visit playgrounds, children museums, schools and other places where they have access to vulnerable children while on probation.
I have written Governor Pete Ricketts about changing the Nebraska Sex Registry Law so that more restrictions can be placed on sex offenders so that they are not allowed to freely interact with vulnerable children who are now at risk from them.
The Governor wrote me back telling me that a senator needed to bring this issue up in the legislation before he can do anything. So I wrote letters to many Nebraska senators about this issue. So far, I have not heard from any of them.
Our world has changed
When I grew up, the typical family was still a working dad, a stay-at-home mom, and other kids in the neighborhood with the same type of families. Today, the divorce rate is almost 50 percent, and children living with a single parent or in a blended family have become all too common. This creates a whole new environment of risk for children.
Did you know that a child with a biological mother who is living with a man who is not the child’s father is 33 times more likely to suffer abuse. (Source: Dreamcatchers for Abused Children)
I know a girl who was physically and emotionally abused by her stepfather for over 10 years before he sexually molested her. Once the abuse was reported, it still took the court system over two years to finally convict the man. Even then, he was allowed to plead guilty to third degree sexual assault, (a misdemeanor) rather than sexual assault of a child. (a felony) The judge only sentenced him two years probation! What makes matters worse is that the victims’s mother maintains that her daughter made the whole thing up.
Less than two weeks after being released on probation this same man was arrested again for child abuse against another daughter still living in the home! Now he faces charges for child abuse in one county and probation violation in another county.
No parent wants to believe that one of their own family members or a spouse would be capable of sexually molesting their child, but if a child comes to you complaining of inappropriate behavior of someone you know, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. This problem will NOT go away on its own, and if the perpetrator is not confronted, it will only get worse.
What can we do to help?
Children often won’t tell you straight up that something is happening to them, because they’ve been threatened, they may be ashamed, or they may not feel comfortable talking to you about it. So it is up to adults to watch for the signs of abuse and act on behalf of the child.
Watch & Listen!
You may be surprised at what you can learn by observing a child during playtime. It’s why so many therapist use “Play Therapy” when dealing with younger children. There are also possible physical and behavioral indicators of child sexual abuse, some of which are:
- Unusual or inappropriate interaction between a child & a specific person.
- Showing unusually aggressive behavior toward family members and friends.
- Experiencing a loss of appetite or other eating problems.
- Showing unusual fear or a sudden reluctance to be alone with a certain person.
- Engaging in persistent sexual play with friends, toys or pets.
- Engaging in self-mutilations, such as cutting themselves.
- Wearing an unusual amount of layers of clothing.
For more information and help contact:
11949 Q Street / Omaha, NE 68137
Childhelp USA’s National Child Abuse Hotline
National Domestic Violence/Abuse Hotline
Because no child should have to suffer abuse in silence.