Maltreatment, The Language of Child Abuse

June 25, 2015 in Invisible Children, Mike Tikkanen, Public Policy by Mike Tikkanen

Pensive ParakeetIt hurts me to hear child abuse and neglect discussed in the language of business.  It fails to convey the horror of the thing that was done.

Tiny defenseless human beings in terrifying circumstances written and talked about as if highways or funding issues are the issue.

Language is critical to a clear picture of what happened.

When we don’t talk openly about a terrible thing it just does not exist (or it’s not terrible or not a problem).

Most of the time we use words that mask painful things because we are uncomfortable speaking about them.

It’s easier on us to hear euphemisms and obfuscation than the hard language of suicide, rape and murder of 3 and 6 year old children.  That’s why we have so much of it.  Until we face the epidemic of hateful things done to children by their caregivers our policymakers will never understand it or be effective in solving these problems.

Many years in child protection has taught me that children are not removed from their homes unless they have suffered from extended exposure to violence and deprivation (the World Health Organization’s definition of torture)

Maltreatment sounds like a missed meal – the impact of this word is minimal and does not convey the violence that has be done to a child.

What maltreatment most often means;

* sex abuse of child (the oldest child has been abused for 4 years nationally)

* a bruised and bleeding six year old (if you hit kids in the stomach there are no bruises and they are screened out – so no abuse).

*  the violence done to the 50+ children I worked with in child protection was not maltreatment – it was rape (2 year old, several 3 and 4 year olds & another 20 children sexually molested were under 10 – one 7 year old had been prostituted) and a 4 year old boy beaten & sexually abused and tied to a bed and left alone for days without food or water.