Friday, December 23, 2005


Reporting Child Abuse

DrHelen recently had a post concerning this incident in a school classroom. If this incident was true, I consider it a case of psychological/physical abuse. Some of the comments to the post expressed strong skepticism towards the story.

I hold skepticism dear to my heart. Usually when I receive an email from a friend containing some story I check it out at Snopes or do a web search. Almost always these are hoaxes. But with posts such as these I find something different.

Sure, it may be a hoax, but why? Many reports of abuse are to gain some sort of advantage or, as the skeptical commenter said, to push a political agenda against feminism. False claims do occur. False claims are so common that some state governments, such asArizona, have made or considered intentionally making false reports illegal. False reports spread child protective services resources thins.

But, with this said, do you want to be the person that suspects some form of abuse and does nothing about it? Do you want to be so skeptical that a child continues to be abused and an abuser continues to abuse because you didn't believe it?

I have known a few women that were sexually abused as children. All stated that they tried to tell someone of the abuse including teachers, priests, etc. All were met with some sort of skepticism and a "don't worry, honey, it'll be OK" type response. In the case with which I am most familiar, several people knew but no one did anything.

While living in married student housing in college, a young girl my daughter's age reported to my wife verbal abusiveness by the girl's father. The girl's father had been grooming her to be a champion tennis player since age 5. At times I had played tennis with her and she was a phenom. I frequently played basketball with her father and believed him to be a really nice guy. But, the girl claimed her father had threatened to throw boiling water on her face if she didn't play tennis harder and better. We felt we had no choice but to call protective services. After spending several nights with us since she refused to go home, the girl's claims were found to be substantial enough that she was removed from the home. Eventually, she was adopted by a local tennis coach.

I remember one of my boyhood friends who lived a few houses up the street having whip marks on his back where his father whipped him. I lived in an upper-middle class neighborhood, doctors, lawyers, professors, etc.

In schools, problem of abuse are not uncommon. Sometimes the abuser is another student. Although in these situations teachers may be complicit by not doing enough to prevent bullying, etc. The most harmful abuse comes from teachers. It may be emotional/psychological abuse, sexual abuse or physical abuse.

There are many sports coaches whose methods are abusive. These are often overlooked or accepted if the coaches teams win. John Grisham's novel, Bleachers centers around such a coach. I knew a coach that would scream at his 11 year old players so loud in the locker room behind closed doors that everyone in the gym could hear him. His teams won games though so it was alright.

My point in all this is, if you seriously suspect abuse, report it. Most states now have laws stating that if one suspects abuse, they must report it. Sometimes it takes several reports for authorities to seriously consider that someone is abusive. Make sure you know the difference between a child being disciplined and abuse however. Be receptive to a child's confidence to you so that communication will continue in the event that the child truly needs help. If you appear too skeptical, the child will think, "Well, he never believes me anyway. I won't tell him anything," and, maybe, resign themselves to the suffering of the abuse with no hope for relief.

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