Child Abuse: An Exposition


Imagine for one moment that you are not yourself any longer. 
Visualize instead that you are a young girl; old enough to know right 
from wrong yet still young enough to be terrified by the dark shadows 
in your room. It is a cool autumn night and your parents have opted 
to attend a party which you are not allowed at. "It will be fine," 
they say. Although you already know what is to come. Your uncle comes 
over to watch you for the evening, and your parents are so pleased by 
the fact that they do not have to find a sitter. As soon as he 
arrives, your mother kisses you on the cheek and scurries out the door 
to join your father already waiting in the car outside. The nightmare 
begins. His slimy hands casually slide an ebony cartridge into the 
VCR as he smiles at you seductively. You can feel his eyes worming 
their gaze through your clothes every time that he looks at you. You 
feel dirty and violated every time you think about what he does to you 
when you are alone. He walks over to the couch and sits down next to 
you. His hand slithers it way onto your knee and you cringe in 
revulsion. "Don't be afraid, I won't hurt you," he chides. Your mind 
feels panicky as you feel his touch in more intimate places and you 
scream involuntarily. His grip tightens as he places his hand over 
your mouth. "We'll have to do this the hard way!" comes his intense 
whisper. You flail your arms at him, but it doesn't help. His 
writhing massive body is on top of yours, and you feel so powerless. 
Eventually, you sink into a sobbing heap and simply wait for his 
passions to stop. You wait for the nightmare to end. When he is 
done, you limp to the laundry room and try fruitlessly to get the 
blood stains out of your clothes. It is all your fault... 

Abuse: The violation or defilement of; 

 What you have just experienced is one type of abuse that 
occurs millions of times every year across America. Estimates of 
abuse range wildly depending on the source of ones information. From 
one to two million children per year are victims of child abuse. 
(Dolan p.3) All sources agree on the simple truth that not nearly all 
cases of child abuse are reported or even estimated. Man cases go 
unreported, less than 50% by current estimates. (Dolan p.3) The 
amount of child abuse is staggering to think about, let alone deal 
with. By the age of eighteen one in three girls will have been 
sexually molested and one in six boys will have been molested in that 
same time frame. (WWW site). Although, throughout this paper we shall 
discuss not only the effects of sexual abuse but abuse in all its 
forms. These include Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Mental Abuse and 
Neglect. We will also Touch upon the basic question of this report, 
and that is, "How has child abuse changed over the last 100 years and 
what effects has this had on the family?" This brings us to our first 
research area, change.
 It is clear that families are undergoing a number of important
structural changes: families are smaller than in the past, with fewer
children and sometimes with only one parent; parents have children at 
a later age; more couples live together without the bonds of matrimony
which was accepted as a sacred bond so few years in human history. 
The source of this degradation of such a basic unit of society is 
unknown throughout all areas of research which I canvassed in my 
quest. It is a question that one person needs to answer for himself 
and solve for himself. Something a young child is not capable of 
 Physical abuse has many forms. It may involve the hitting or 
kicking of a child with the fists or the feet, or with another object; 
such as belts, shovels, changes, ropes, electric cords, leather 
straps, canes, baseball bats, sticks, broom handles, or assorted large 
objects. Other forms of abuse include the pouring of scalding water 
or coffee on a child's body, holding a child's head under the water of 
a toilet bowl, stuffed into running washing machines, throwing a child 
against a wall, shaking a child with extreme force or placing parts of 
a child's anatomy on hot or burning objects to cause pain. (Author's 
note: Sometimes in extreme cases the shaking of a child with such 
extreme force as an aggressive abuser possesses can cause severe brain 
damage as the brain is crushed from repeated impact against the skull. 
 This type of injury is especially damaging in babies and small 
children.) Some experts say the For every reported case of physical 
abuse over 100 are not reported. (Dolan p.7) Nobody knows precisely 
how many children die each year from physical abuse at the hands of 
adults. The National committee for the Prevention of child Abuse in 
its annual survey of all 50 states estimates the 1,125 children died 
from abuse in 1988, a figure that, according to the Committee's report 
"most likely represents the lowest estimate of the problem." What is 
known is that reports of child fatalities resulting from abuse are 
steadily increasing... (Neal p.1) Many times when physical abuse is 
caused by a parent or guardian, the child is not taken for medical 
help, even when wounds or injuries are very severe. When they are 
taken into the hospital it is usually be a secondary member of the 
family, one who may not have caused the abuse but did not stop it 
either. This type of person might be called a facilitator. In the 
past, there was much more discipline in homes and schools then there 
is today. In one interview, I had the following response to the 
question, What do you consider to be abuse; as compared to punishment 
and discipline? "Beating with a stick the size of a telegraph pole. 
Or forcing a kid to eat liver. That is what the government sees. I 
see it as abuse if the child isn't learning from it. Kids way back 
when were slapped on the wrist with rulers. They didn't go out and 
kill each other as many of the kids do today." (Towle E-mail) Many 
people which I interview displayed one of two attitudes:

· No hitting or abuse was acceptable to them today
· More discipline is needed today than before

 Many experts think that terrible pressures on today's family 
are partly to blame for the excess of abuse in today's families. 
(Dolan p.9) Physical abuse is termed sexual abuse when it involves 
the display or touching of genitalia or anything which is not a 
comfortable part of a normal person to person contact. This brings us 
to our next form of Child abuse, that of Sexual or exploitive abuse.
 Sexual abuse is described as those activities by an older 
person for his or her sexual gratification without consideration for 
the child's psycho-social sexual development. Also, as contacts or 
interactions between a child and an individual of higher power when 
the child is being used for the sexual stimulation of that adult or 
another. (Ruth p.4) There are many categories of sexual abuse, these 
include; incest, pedophilia, exhibitionism, molestation, sex 
(statutory rape), sexual sadism, and child pornography. It is 
estimated that approximately three hundred thousand children are 
involved in child prostitution and pornography. (Kempe p.9) Many 
times men or woman who abuse children were abused when they were 
young. In this way, abuse is very much a self fulfilling prophecy, or 
circle problem. Historically, sexual abuse was not as much of a 
problem as it is in modern times. Incidences of sexual abuse are 
highest in urbanized technologically advanced societies. We hold this 
to be self evident because the basic need of the sexual drive is 
denied a constructive (at least, less destructive) outlet in modern 
society. In other cultures and times, prostitution was a valid form 
of employment, and this niche provided an integral outlet for 
connoisseurs of sex. (I.e. nymphomaniacs, and satirists). Without
this vent men with sexual frustration may turn to the less reactive
child as sexual prey. Due to the black market prostitution of 
children, a twelve year old boy can earn upwards of a thousand dollars 
per day selling himself on the streets of Los Angeles. Sexual abuse 
can have severe consequences on the mental development of a children. 
(Mental? Did someone mention mental?)
 Mental Abuse of a child can involve several different 
activities. These can involved the common verbal forms, i.e. yelling, 
neglect, constant insults, etc. They also involve certain forms of 
mental torture and neglect. Mental abuse is one of the most damaging 
forms of abuse, because unlike rape or other forms of sexual or 
physical abuse, mental abuse will be with you all of your life. I 
would offer this analogy to shed light what I am trying to communicate 
here. Physical and sexual abuse are like roadblocks in the road of 
life. They are there for a while, but you get over them eventually. 
Mental abuse, on the other hand, catalyzes the disillusion of the view 
of the street. If someone is always insulting you, always telling you 
that you are no good: then with time, your mind becomes accustomed to 
it, and begins to believe it. This especially is a damaging 
consequence for young children and infants, who are as dependent upon 
mental support as they are for their physiological needs. It is an 
utter violation of such a relationship. Mental abuse not only affects 
the child, and the family, but society as a whole. In one of my 
interviews I received the following response to the question; What do 
you feel is the greatest misconception about abuse in today's society? 
"We still don't understand how much real damage it does, not only to 
the child but to society as a whole. Most people never fully recover 
from child abuse. Our society has never recovered from child 
abuse..." (Kimball E-mail) This brings us to our final area of 
discussion on the subject of child abuse, that of neglect.
 Neglect is the most prevalent form of child maltreatment. "The
statistics are staggering. A recent Study prepared by the American
Humane Association states that, nationwide, neglect consistently has
accounted for the greatest number of maltreatment reports; in 1988 
alone it represented sixty three percent of the approximately two 
million cases of reported incidents of the three predominant forms of 
child maltreatment: physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect." 
(Steinbach p.8) Neglect is the unlawful withholding of a child's 
basic needs. Food, Water, Shelter, Clothing; these are all things 
that a child needs to live an effective life in today's society. To 
deny a child these things is to leave him lower on the ladder of needs 
than he or she would conceivably be otherwise. Neglect is by far more 
prominent than any other forms of child maltreatment, but, continually 
it is the least prominent villain in child abuse advertising schemes. 
Why are people so unwilling to admit this problem? Why do Americans 
consistently look overseas and across borders when sending their 
charitable donations? The problem is here! It is not imagined. 
Unlike the demons who lurk in the darkness of children's closets, this 
villain will not vanish at the flip of a light switch. Many of these 
children do not have their own closets or lights...
 In conclusion, we have gone over the most important points and 
facts about the different types of child abuse and what their affects 
are on children. We have tried to shed some light on this unspoken 
about, and shunned subject. The answer to the question which was 
posed at the beginning of this paper is vague a best and unanswerable 
at worst. Child abuse has always been around, and it always will be 
around as long as other people care more about themselves, than about 
others. The golden rule is the ultimate answer, the most dignified 
quest. The last hundred years have only brought about changes in the 
discussion, description, and definition of child abuse. These things 
have helped do away with child abuse significantly, but the 
eradication of this most cursed of diseases is not in the sight of 
those who look to the future. I leave you with this final quote, 
spoken by a one Mr. Andrew Vachss. 

"The effect that child abuse has not just on the victims, but on their
subsequent victims and on society as a whole, is, in my judgment, far
more devastating than the threat of drugs, of political upheaval, of
economic disaster, or of environmental destruction... I really think
that child abuse is the most significant threat not just to the 
quality of life in this country, but to life in this country." 
(Kesegich, p.33)


Lesar, Jenny. Statistics. Woodbridge, Conneticut: Blackbirch Press
Inc, 1996

Kesegich, Ken. "In Defense of Children." Cwru February, 1990: 33-35

Steinbach, Alice. "Neglect: the most prevalent form of child
maltreatment." Honolulu Star-Bulletic & Advertiser 30 July 1989: A-29

Dolan, Edward F. Big book of abuse. Anywhere, USA, Anybody Inc: 1312 

Towle, Jeffery. Email Interview. 25 October 1996.

Kimball, Lisa. Email Interview. 30 October 1996.


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