Child Abuse May Be The Worst Crime

December 14, 2007

While reading about murder, rape, armed robbery, terrorism-- all crimes we can conjure up scenarios for as we read, there is an invisible crime that goes quietly on, inspiring no pictorials in our minds. But it may be worse than those above. It's child abuse. Now certainly murder, for instance, is a final assault, ending someone's life. And certainly an abused child gets to go on living, after all. But it's shocking to look into the background of our felons to discover a universal exposure to child abuse in their past. Now I'm not saying they're not responsible. Many children have been abused and have risen to the occasion to NOT act criminally as adults. But not everyone's the same. Some people grow up simply not caring about anything due to the lack of nurturing that child abuse guarantees. Life is meaningless to a person who's had a meaningless life, and abused children are beaten down to this point.

Today's criminal doesn't care if he kills you, because he doesn't even care if he himself gets killed. Whether you're killed in an assault may depend on a whim. We're dealing with empty shells of people, their substance having been leaked out by the recurrent abuse of childhood. Whether it's verbal, physical, or sexual abuse--or neglect--this is a crime that goes on punishing, because that child is more likely to treat his or her children that way. And they theirs.

The Crimes of Child Abuse

A murder is a horrible thing, but one child abused sits at the top of the expanding pyramid, as child abuse keeps going on and on--for generations. A perfectly good psyche can be so severely damaged with so little, and the hand-me-down abuse can go on to spread throughout our society to shock us with the headlines that do make it to the front page. As a doctor, I ask myself if our society is doing all that it can to minimize abuse. Are we ourselves falling short in parenting skills from time to time? Is diplomacy taught to our children, or is physical punishment the standard?

Behavioral psychologists will tell you that if physical punishment isn't severe enough, it won't do any good to discourage bad behavior; and if it is severe enough, there's more than just physical pain--there's damage: a child will suppress this memory, which will go somewhere, only to re-emerge later as some misdirected rage over an unrelated event. So physical punishment is not a good idea. Verbal abuse damages the sense of self-worth. The soul's not far behind.

And sexual abuse shatters a healthy spirit to smithereens. A person's first exposure to an act that's supposed to be an expression of love and affection is instead twisted into a perverted lesson in selfishness, exploitative molestation, and violence. It's difficult for the victim to learn the real purpose of sex, creating hang-ups, guilt, and painful physical awkwardness later. For every horrifying item we read about, there are hundreds being sewn in the background. Over-crowding, fatherless families, and crack cocaine don't help. But abuse of children, for whatever reason, is our biggest peril, and any attempt to improve society must make it the major concern.

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