Child Abuse Statistics

Child Abuse Statistics

child abuse statisticsIf child abuse statistics are to be believed the mistreatment of children in this country is epidemic—that’s a big “if”, but not in a good way. Statisticians believe that the incidents of child abuse that are reported represent only a small percentage of actual abuse cases.

Obviously, abusers do not report themselves.

And children who have been abused are reluctant to report their abusers for fear of embarrassment or retaliation. In many cases the child does not know that they have been victimized by their abuser; the emotional scars they suffer through adulthood they attribute to something that was their misdoing.

Such was the case for Rudy Krause. In chapter 3 of “Conversations…” he tells Katherine of how Doris would come to him after an ugly fight with his father and blame the whole incident on Rudy:

“Then, invariably, when it was all over, she’d come up to me with tears running down her cheeks and pure, unadulterated contempt in her eyes and say ‘See what you did? Do you see what you caused?’”

“Ouch!” Kay said, “That had to hurt!”
“Hurt? Oh yeah it hurt, it hurt real bad. And that hurt led to hate, an emotion that up to that point was foreign to me.”
“So you started to hate your mother?” she asked.
“I never knew my mother, at least not until now.”
“You know what I mean.”

child abuse statistics“Yeah, I know what you mean. But no, I didn’t hate her, at least not at first. That was unacceptable in the Krause house and the Catholic Church. ‘Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother’, you know? I didn’t hate her, but I had to hate someone for causing all this pain. It was my fault, she told me so; so I started hating me.”

And while Rudy did come to realize he was not to blame for the unsavory relationship between his parents this did not mitigate his hatred. He merely projected it onto the person who he believed deserved it, his stepmother Doris. And he found new reasons to hate himself; the lifetime shadow of abuse continued to darken his soul.

Following are some of the alarming child abuse statistics I uncovered while researching this segment. They are relevant to the US unless otherwise stated.

  • Every day 4 children die as a result of child abuse and 3 of them are under the age of 4.
  • 90% of rape victims under the age of 12 knew their attacker.
  • 14% of all men in prison and 36% of all women in prison were abused as children.
  • One third of abused or neglected children will abuse their own children, thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse.
  • Child protective services agencies receive over 50,000 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect each week. In 2002 67% of these cases the information in the reports was sufficient to prompt an investigation. As a result of these investigations 896,000 children were found to be abused or neglected—that’s more than 2,450 children per day.
  • Boys and girls are equally likely to be abused or neglected.
  • Approximately 80% of child abuse is at the hands of a parent or caregiver.
  • Children under the age of 4 account for 75% of all deaths from child abuse.
  • 30% of all child fatalities are due to neglect.

You get the idea, and to enumerate any more of the sordid child abuse statistics would only add meaningless sizzle to an already sizeable chunk of putrid steak. Suffice it to say that child neglect and abuse is rampant and undoubtedly responsible for significant emotional suffering in adults who shoulder the legacy of guilt that is the byproduct of an abusive childhood.

Why would someone abuse a child (or anyone else, for that matter)?

child abuse statisticsFor clues as to why someone would add to the dismal child abuse statistics we’ve been looking at I will suggest we refer to Sigmund Freud’s “Pleasure Principle”. It states that all actions we take are motivated by either our desire to experience pleasure or to avoid pain. Sounds simplistic, I know, but look at these examples of child abuse and I think you’ll begin to see the viability of my contention.

Physical abuse
The child is beaten, burned, poked, stabbed, etc. This kind of abuse is often in the name of discipline and the abuser believes at some level he is doing the right thing; this would be a pleasurable experience for him.

Another possible explanation would be an effort to relieve the pain he feels caused by a child who is irritating, annoying or otherwise inconveniencing the abuser. The crying infant that is harmed by shaking is an excellent example of this dynamic in action.

Sexual Abuse
There appears to be two examples of why someone would subject a child to sexual abuse. The first is obvious; sexual pleasure for the abuser. The second would be exploitation of the child for profit, i.e. prostitution or pornographic materials.

Emotional Abuse
Why would an adult criticize, threaten, reject or withhold love from a child? These were Doris Krause’s crimes against Rudy and her motivation was to divert love, affection or attention away from him and toward her son Bobby. Seeing Bobby lavished with praise brought her pleasure while the same attention directed toward Rudy brought her pain, and that pain demanded alleviation.

I believe that emotional abuse often characterizes a dynamic that we see frequently in adulthood. That is the practice of berating someone in order to bolster our own appearance to ourselves or others. “Look how fat Janice has gotten” implies, “…and how trim I’ve remained.” “Look at the trouble you’ve caused” implies “It’s your fault your father hit me, not mine.”

Child abuse statistics tell only a small part of the problem of child abuse.

child abuse statisticsThe abuse is simply the result of terribly complex underlying problems that include learned parenting habits, drug and alcohol abuse, inexperience, low self esteem and in some cases, plain old sadism. Child abuse is an expression of humanness at its worst and as I stated before, the resultant lack of joy and productivity experienced by its adult survivors is incalculable. If it’s any consolation, if you’ve become a child abuse statistic you are not alone.


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