Through the ages, the history of adult treatment of children is far from inspiring. In order to trim the Jewish population, Pharaoh ordered that Moses, along with his Hebrew brothers, be killed at birth. Herod sought the life of the newborn Christ Child and killed uncounted boy babies in his quest. The nineteenth century Industrial Revolution saw masses of young children bound over to factories for labor by their parents who needed the wages to survive.
The late twentieth century maltreatment of children is a different phenomenon. We are told by Philip New, M.D., (Head of the Dept. of Psychiatry, Royal Jubilee Hospital of British Colombia, 1980) that “the most common cause of death in American children between six and twelve months of age is being killed by their own parents.” This ugly picture is unrelated to the motivations described above. Child labor laws have removed the young from factories; monarchies, along with Pharaoh and Herod, have almost disappeared. Another syndrome is emerging. It encompasses physical abuse, steady and extreme neglect, emotional abuse in which the child is consistently made to feel unworthy and sexual abuse. This is increasingly referred to as “family violence.”
The experts differ on its causes; some see battering parents as economically deprived, while others insist that educated, upper-middle class parents are the offenders. In her book, “Sins of the Father” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978), Ruth Ingalis says that child abuse is not traced to a single origin but rather is a complex problem related to mental and emotional ills.
In recent years it has been argued, especially by Planned Parenthood, that unwanted children were the abused ones. “Every child a wanted child,” their slogan reads. Yet, Edward Lenoski, M.D. of the University of California, in his article, “Plight of the Children,” reports that in his studies which have extended over many years, 91% of abused children were very much wanted. Lenoski’s findings are reinforced by social service experts in Michigan who also agree that child abusers are found in every stratum of society, regardless of economics or education. The interesting fact is that no matter how experts differ on the subject, there is general agreement that loneliness and isolation from family, friends and society are the common denominators for child abusers.
It is encouraging to see intelligent efforts made in our own state by local councils on child abuse which encourage “Parents Anonymous” to heal themselves through group therapy, which also offer Parent Education Classes, and in a pilot project in Lansing, have established a Family Growth Center offering free drop-in child care and limited crisis prevention. We are also encouraged by the recent passage in Michigan of Children’s Trust Fund Legislation which establishes a Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to be funded by a check-off on state income tax forms.
Yet, we sadly fear that the dark specter of cruelty to children will haunt our nation until a true reverence for life is rooted in every community — large and small. Before this can happen, we must rise as one person to refute the spurious logic of “Every child a wanted child” and lay to rest forever the sick notion that human life has value only when it is wanted and useful.
RLM finds it highly relevant that child abuse has risen dramatically since permissive abortion became legal, and it has done so not only in America but in Canada and England as well. We continue to insist that abortion is the ultimate child abuse that debases all life and especially the lives of children in the eyes of society. We suggest a worthy goal would be “Every child a protected child,” and we rededicate ourselves to that purpose.