Wednesday, September 7, 2011

THE BATTERED CHILD: SIDE EFFECT OF ECONOMIC DOLDRUMS?

On June 21, when the NYC medical examiner completed his report on Jamar Johnson, 5, it was revealed he had died as a result of “blunt force trauma causing him to suffer a laceration to his intestine and pancreas," according to court documents. Even a body as small as young Jamar’s would have to be bashed pretty hard to cause those injuries, but then Jamar’s murderer was quite angry. That would be Kim Crawford, 21, single, unemployed mother of two, with a history of drug abuse. Oh, and it should be noted…Kim is Jamar’s mother. You may be wondering what drove Kim Crawford her filicidal act. It seems Jamar had broken the television set while using his Nintendo Wii. And it seems Crawford says she was “punishing” him for his act. In the weeks that followed, despite Crawford’s contention of innocence, it was revealed that she has an arrest record for assault and drug charges, and that police had been called to her subsidized apartment on East 227th St. at least nine times since 2006 for domestic disturbances. And yet – Jamar and his sister remained in the home with little hope of ever seeing adulthood, or at least of ever reaching adulthood with any degree of peace.

Crawford (below, left) has since been charged with second degree murder and manslaughter. There are no excuses for Crawford’s act, but maybe it should be a wakeup call for the bloody side dish that seems to be served up during economic recession. Kids are being brutalized coast to coast, and often nobody knows about it because the parents are clever enough to cover it up, or deceitful enough to lie about it, like Crawford did. Is there a link between the national economy and child abuse? The evidence would suggest there is.

By now you’ve heard that national unemployment is holding steady at 9.1%. In August the U.S. added no new jobs. You are so accustomed to hearing these gloomy reports that it has become little more than white noise, right? And you have heard all about how clinical depression is up, consumer spending is down, and economic indicators are stagnant. But who talks about the children of the jobless? Did you know that during times of economic recession, studies show that child abuse and neglect increase? Probably not. Nobody writes much about that.

As usual, the numbers tell the story: At Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, last year doctors studied 512 patients between the ages of six and nine, from 2007 to 2009. Here’s what they found: The number of cases of shaken baby syndrome rose from six per month before Dec. 1, 2007, to 9.3 per month after that date. Some 63 percent of the children studied had injuries severe enough that they had to be admitted to pediatric intensive care units, and 16 percent died.

According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome,(which often leads to abusive head trauma), the long term consequences of just this one act can include learning disabilities, hearing and speech impairment, blindness, cerebral palsy, cognitive impairment and in about 300 cases a year, death. Jamar, of course was not a victim of shaken baby syndrome (as far as we know), but he was nonetheless a victim of parental violence. A 2009 report from The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tells us that more mothers than fathers kill their kids. The majority of victims are under three years old, followed closely by those up to seven years old. Astonishingly, 75.8% of perpetrators in cases of child fatality were the parents. Gender of the child doesn’t matter – fatalities are almost evenly split between boys and girls. Not surprisingly, children in low socio-economic status households were far more likely to be battered or killed than those in other environments. Still, way too many kids in middle-class homes are still being abused, as well.

In Boston, Dr. Robert Sege of Boston Medical Center found that child abuse definitely increased in conjunction with the rise in unemployment. Here is what his team found: Starting in 2008, following the beginning of economic distress nationwide, their research recorded a 30% increase in child maltreatment cases, most of which involved neglect, and since 2009, the hospital has already recorded a steady increase. Sege’s study looked at all 50 states from 1990 through 2009 and found that for every 1% increase in unemployment, they found an increase in child abuse reports of at least 0.50 per 1000 children one year later.

It causes one to wonder if recent high profile child abuse reports could be a result of economic doldrums. Not all of these kids come from homes where parents are unemployed, but most American families are feeling the pinch of a lifeless economy. And, as you will see, it is not always the child’s parent who is the abuser:
• Take the recent case of Gary Johnson, Jr., 35, who beat up a 16-year-old in his own back yard. Watch:

• Then there is the case of the Alaska mom who couldn’t’ get her adopted son to behave, so she routinely poured hot sauce down his throat and forced him to take ice cold showers. Watch:

Jessica Beagley was given three years of probation, a 180-day suspended jail sentence and a $2,500 fine — also suspended — after she was convicted last week of misdemeanor child abuse. In easy terms, the judge slapped her hand. The message from the courts seems to be that so long as the child has not endured sexual abuse or actual bodily harm, there will really be no punishment. A suspended sentence and a suspended fine would not seem to be a great determent toward future abuse. And make no mistake – what Beagley did is abusive. Any child who was ever subjected to this type of abuse can tell you that such incidents are emotionally cumulative. They never really go away.

• Just wait a few years and ask the three grandsons of Christopher Carlson, 45 of Indianapolis. Carlson took the boys on grueling hikes through the Grand Canyon. Any or all of them could easily have died under the watchful eye of their grandfather, who said there were “tough people in the world” and his grandchildren needed to toughen up. Watch:

The facts are clear: Children are probably the most powerless citizens in our society, or any society. They have no decision-making power in the family, and they usually have no way out when they’re being battered, bloodied and kicked in the gut. Everybody knows abusers were usually abused when they were kids, so we are perpetuating the cycle of abuse by allowing the abusers to receive suspended sentences, or judicial mercy. If an abuser is found by a judge to be mentally incompetent to stand trial, and later found competent enough by doctors to rejoin society, chances are he or she will never stand trial and be let out to do it again. Cases of verbal or emotional abuse often never see the light of day in a courtroom, and if they do, the burden of proof is too high, and again, the abusers walk.

What can you do? The experts are in agreement: SPEAK UP if you know of or even suspect a child is being abused. Call anyone who will listen. Call the school, the church, the police. To find the appropriate agency or entity to call in any of the 50 states, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services operates the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Somebody needed to call somebody before Jamar Johnson turned on his Wii game on June 21. Nobody did. He’s dead, his sister is without parents and his mother’s life, at age 21, is essentially over. Neighbors, friends or relatives who may have witnessed previous abuse were effectively enabling Crawford’s behavior when they failed to speak up. I, for one, wonder who Jamar Johnson may have become had he been able to grow up and escape East 227th St. He did not. And we will never know.

1 comment:

Igor Kopmar said...

Its really a sad and shocking story but thanks to share this post.

Igor Kopmar,
Flight Deals ,
Airfare Deals Advisor