Every year as many as a million documented cases of serious child abuse occur in the U.S. More than a thousand of those children end up in body bags.


It is a difficult issue for most of us to confront.

Child abuse.

Every year as many as a million documented cases of serious child abuse occur in the U.S. More than a thousand of those children end up in body bags.

A million little kids whose woe runs from being ignored and underfed to being beaten to death in the wee dark hours of a stark February morning.

It is always easier to look away, to walk away from the child being whipped like a dog next to a car in the store parking lot or being shaken or struck or gripped by the shoulders.

We are hesitant to interfere. Parents, after all, are the masters of their children. We don’t know the circumstances — maybe it’s ok. We’ve all done it.

Most of the time it’s a tired mom who is sorry later or a dad with three under three who is just at the end of his rope. Sometimes it’s a parent who momentarily overreacts and spends the rest of their lives wishing they could take it back.

Sometimes it is something more.
Sometimes it is a parent who lacks the self control, socialization and feelings that make the rest of us human. Parents who don’t understand that children misbehave, that they are little and that they break easily. Or more likely, don’t care.

We see it around the lake more often than anyone can bear. The mother who set her baby on fire. The woman who cut her baby’s throat. The boyfriend who beat a toddler to death.

Those whose job it is to protect children have a hard row to hoe. They wade in the muck of lives so muddied by poverty, drugs, psychosis and disregard that there seems to be no dry land. They are stuck between those who cry for government to keep its hands off people’s kids and those who believe that spanking is abuse. Their job is to look into people’s hearts and make decisions. It is an impossible task.

Today a lot of people are asking themselves if they ignored something they shouldn’t have. People who saw something that seemed wrong. Someone who wondered why a couple of kids were taken away and two toddlers were still where they shouldn’t have been. People who lie in the dark and think “if only.”

There are no easy answers. There is no definition so precise that it gives us ease. There is only a grey world that fades to black for far too many little kids.

There is one clear thing: The Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. 1.800.392.3738.