Stopping child abuse is our duty

Published 12:22 am Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I got an e-mail today — one of those forwarded things that I generally don’t fool with, but the subject line caught my attention.

“Daddy … it hurts,” the subject line read.

And since for the last week, this paper’s top story has been about a pastor who is accused of doing horrible, horrible things to children in his church, I opened the e-mail and read it.

The first image was of a 3-year-old child and a handprint visible in a bruised purple face with a black eye and stitches.

It said her name was Chris.

The second image was of a hollow-eyed teenager on the verge of tears, with a bloodied nose and busted lip.

The caption: “It’s OK. I deserved it.”

The next picture showed a baby’s back blackened with bruises from a belt strap, and finally a small girl — pretty and blond — knees drawn to her chest. Its line, “One out of every three girls will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18. One out of seven children are abused. How many do you know? You can’t afford to ignore it.”

As I scrolled from one image down to the next, the sinking pit of my stomach grew heavier.

Like the message said, the issue of child abuse — be it emotional, physical, sexual or mental — is something that cannot be ignored.

And while I many not personally know the children who were portrayed in the e-mail I received, we as a community know these children exist. They are our friends and neighbors. They have names, and they are real. Their pain and suffering is real, and stories, like the one that is on our front page today, reminds us it happens here.

For them, I have cried.

And for them, I have reaffirmed the message of “good touch, bad touch” to my children, and I pray that nothing like that ever happens to them.

I cannot praise the victims enough for having the courage to tell someone what happened to them. I can only imagine the torment, heartache and devastation each of the families involved is feeling — from the victims to the church congregation and even to the alleged offender.

After hearing the scope of the case against the man accused of these horrendous crimes, I am flabbergasted and utterly dumbfounded how things like this can happen.

But it did and they do — continually.

And, as the e-mail said, those victims have faces; they have names, and it’s up to each of us as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors to make sure those names and faces aren’t of someone close to us.

To report any suspected incident of any type of child abuse, contact your authorities, whether it’s the local police department, sheriff’s department or the Department of Human Resources.

I heard someone say yesterday, “It’s our first and foremost goal to protect the children.”

Let’s do that. Please, for their sake and yours.