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Taking Aim at Violence against Children—Part IV

Child Kidnapping

Recommendations to Combat Violence against Children

 

Introduction

As mentioned in Part I of this series, the journey children must make between infancy and adulthood may be their most difficult time of life. It is a journey fraught with many obstacles and dangers along the way.

While we all have to endure many inevitable difficulties growing up, no child growing up should ever be put unwittingly in serious danger of their health and well-being. While the nation comes to grips with the tragedy of Sandy Hooks Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there must be recognition that mass murder is only the tip of the iceberg where violence against children is concerned.

Below is a reminder of the many sources of violence children too often confront in their long journey of growing up. Like an old, “salty” U.S. Navy Chief Boson’s Mate I want to “square away” my cyberspace audience with knowledge as to what these many dangers children potentially might face.

As a Reminder: Sources of Violence toward Children

During their formative years children can be victimized in a variety of ways including:

gun violence such as drive-by shootings, homicide and school shootings, physical child abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, neglect and starvation, sibling abuse, criminal acts such as assault and battery by strangers, being drawn into the drug addiction world and victimized, child sex trafficking, kidnapping, bullying,  corporal punishment in schools (20 states still sanction acts of violence hurting children that they euphemistically rationalize as discipline), and finally—mass murder, the ultimate victimization.

 

Focus of Part IV

This is the last segment in my four-part series on Taking Aim at Violence against Children. In many ways this has been the most difficult to write in terms of generating new and innovative ways to deal with violence against children. Recommendations, policy directives and/or legislative proposals are needed that seriously address all of the subject matter mentioned or written about during this four-part series.

As a former researcher and criminologist, I wish I had all the answers and could give you original ideas for dealing with all the various aspects of violence against children. I don’t. But, I suggest that individuals or organizations concerned with these issues strongly consider a four-pronged strategic attack.

The four-prong strategic approach I recommend includes:

  • Encouragement (letter campaign) of political decision-makers to do their job and get involved with the issue one is concerned with
  • Education
  • Technology
  • Where applicable, development of powerful, hard hitting, no holds barred, legislation at  the federal, state and local levels

Change in society always takes courage and a tenacious attitude if anything is ever to get done. We are all drawn in so many different directions during our lives. Time can be our friend or our worst enemy; it’s always difficult to stay focused for any length of time. Once again everything comes down to values and the assumptions and decisions we make with scarce resources. It can all seem overwhelming at times—–but we must persevere.

What follows ahead after the segment on Kidnapping is an effort to bring, beyond generalizations, more specific recommendations, policy directives, and/or needed legislation to bear on many of the major categories of violence previously described.

Kidnapping

The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children (NISMART) have placed cases into five categories:

1. Family Abductions – A child was taken in violation of a custody agreement or degree, failed to return a child at the end of a legal or agreed-upon visit, with the child being away at least overnight. An attempt was made to conceal the taking, or the whereabouts of a child, or to prevent contact with the child. The child is transported out of state, or there is evidence that the abductor had the intent to keep the child indefinitely, or to permanently alter custodial privileges.

2. Non-Family Abductions – Attempted abductions, for example luring of a child for the purposes of committing another crime. There is coercion and unauthorized taking of a child into a building, a vehicle, or a distance of more than 20 feet, and the detention of a child for a period of more than one hour.

3. Runaways – Children that have left home and stayed away overnight. These child runaways unquestionably expose themselves to harm at night in unfamiliar and therefore dangerous surroundings. These runaways also include those who have run away from a juvenile facility.

4. Throwaways – These are children who have experienced any of the following situations:

The child was told to leave the household.

The child was away from home and the parent/guardian refused to allow the child back.

The child ran away, but the parent/guardian made no effort to recover the child, or did not care whether or not the child returned.

The child was abandoned or deserted.

5. Lost, Injured, or Otherwise Missing:

This category relates to children missing for varying periods of time, depending on their age, disability, and whether the absence was due to an injury.

Statistics

The first step in protecting your child from potential abductors is to know what you’re dealing with. Here are some important, and potentially surprising, facts about child abductions in the United States:

  • Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child becomes missing or is abducted.
  • The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) estimates that 85 to 90 percent of the 840,279 people reported as missing or abducted in 2001 were children. The vast majority of these cases are resolved within hours.  This amounted to about 2,000 a day.
  • Based on the identity of the perpetrator, there are three distinct types of kidnapping: kidnapping by a relative of the victim or “family kidnapping” (49 percent), kidnapping by an acquaintance of the victim or “acquaintance kidnapping” (27 percent), and kidnapping by a stranger to the victim or “stranger kidnapping” (24 percent).
  • Family kidnapping is committed primarily by parents, and  involves a larger percentage of female perpetrators (43 percent) than it does in other types of kidnapping offenses; It occurs more frequently to children under 6, equally victimizes juveniles of both sexes, and most often originates in the home.
  • Acquaintance kidnapping involves a comparatively high percentage of juvenile perpetrators, has the largest percentage of female and teenage victims, is more often associated with other crimes (especially sexual and physical assault), occurs at homes and residences, and has the highest percentage of injured victims.
  • Stranger kidnapping victimizes more females than males, occurs primarily at outdoor locations, victimizes both teenagers and school-age children, is associated with sexual assaults in the case of girl victims and robberies in the case of boy victims (although not exclusively so), and is the type of kidnapping most likely to involve the use of a firearm.
  • Only about one child out of each 10,000 missing children reported to the local police is not found alive. However, about 20 percent of the children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in nonfamily abductions are not found alive.
  • In 80 percent of abductions by strangers, the first contact between the child and the abductor occurs within a quarter mile of the child’s home.
  • Most potential abductors grab their victims on the street or try to lure them into their vehicles.
  • About 74 percent of the victims of nonfamily child abduction are girls.
  • Acting quickly is critical. Seventy-four percent of abducted children who are ultimately murdered are dead within three hours of the abduction.
  • One in five children 10 to 17 years old receive online messages that involve un-wanted sexual solicitations.
  • In a 1998 study of parents’ worries by pediatricians at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, nearly three-quarters of parents said they feared their children might be abducted. One-third of parents said this was a frequent worry — a degree of fear greater than that held for any other concern, including car accidents, sports injuries, or drug addiction.

Sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation; National Crime Information Center; U.S. Justice Dept.; Vanished Children’s Alliance; Redbook, February 1998; State of Washington’s Office of the Attorney General; United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Juvenile Justice Bulletin, June 2000

 

Recommendations to Combat Violence against Children

 

Gun Violence

 

The President’s comprehensive plan for stemming gun violence was presented in Part I of this series. The only type of recommendation missing seemed to be connected with mass shootings in a business or governmental office by a recently fired or terminated employee. It must be pointed out that often times a former employee who returns to the work site with a gun may have already killed family members. This would suggest that mass murder involving job sites is more than about just losing a job.  Rather, it is based on a complex set of psychiatric factors that predisposes someone to go over the edge and commit murder, regardless of setting.

Someone who is under pressure and loses a job just as easily might carry out mass murder in a bank, shopping mall, or a Coney Island setting. There is simply no way to predict in advance (even with patients being treated by clinicians, psychologists and/or psychiatrists) such acts of violence.

This does not mean however that there aren’t steps of a preventive nature that can be taken that can help alleviate, in business and governmental settings, pressures people experience from losing a job, regardless of reason for the termination.

Recommendation # 1

The federal government should make available very low interest loans to businesses to develop and/or augment existing Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s). In all likelihood this would require legislation, primarily affecting the Small Business Administration. If a business is large enough, they should provide, upon termination of an employee, counseling and assistance to help them acquire unemployment compensation from their state’s Department of Employment. In addition, EAP programs in both the private and public sector need to start re-tooling.

Something new might include psychiatric services to all employees, and screening of new employees who might have family, psychiatric or mental health problems. A pro-active caring business just might develop loyalty that otherwise might not have ever developed. Businesses must tread lightly by protecting the confidentiality of every employee and offer such services on a voluntary basis. This will be fine for most employees. However, what does a business do with the “bad apples” among recalcitrant employees who appear to need such services, but whom refuse to take advantage of such services? For example, what does a manager do if an employee is bi-polar and can’t get along with anyone because of a brain that is not firing on all cylinders for sociability?  While only a small percentage of bi-polar individuals are ever given to violence, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that, given enough personal stresses, violence could occur by this type of person.

My recommendation is for a business to incorporate psychological services at some point in the “disciplinary process.” At this point such services would not be voluntary but required to keep one’s employment. This assumes that the offending employee has not committed so egregious an offense as to require immediate termination. If an employee needs to be summarily fired on the stop, then it is up to that business whether to “beef up” security services following such termination. If threats are made by the employee law enforcement should immediately be contacted.

 

Recommendation # 2

Small businesses might simply combine or pool their resources to make available psychiatric services to all employees working in any of the small businesses. At the very least, small businesses might create, for all employees, a pamphlet of information on where to go for help during a personal medical or psychiatric emergency.

Child Abuse

Prevention is the best hope for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving the lives of children and families. Strengthening families and preventing child abuse requires a shared commitment of individuals and organizations in every community. The following resources discuss the framework for child abuse and neglect prevention, provide information on what to do when children are at risk for abuse or neglect, and link to State, Federal, and national organizations that support prevention initiatives. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families has put forth the following recommendations relating to prevention of child maltreatment:

Framework to Prevent Child Maltreatment

Professionals working to prevent child abuse and neglect have incorporated ideas and information from other disciplines, including public health, education, and mental health, to influence and guide practice. However, public health has had the greatest influence in organizing a framework of prevention services. That framework consists of three levels of services: primary prevention programs, directed at the general population (universal) in an effort to prevent maltreatment before it occurs; secondary prevention programs, targeted to individuals or families in which maltreatment is more likely (high risk); and tertiary prevention programs, targeted toward families in which abuse has already occurred (indicated).

Distinctions among primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention do not necessarily reflect the way prevention-related services are actually organized and provided. Rather than sorting prevention initiatives into mutually exclusive categories, prevention is increasingly recognized as occurring along a continuum. A comprehensive system of care for improving outcomes for children and family needs to include strategies that coordinate resources across the entire continuum, from primary to secondary to tertiary prevention.

  • Primary prevention
  • Secondary prevention
  • Tertiary prevention

The following pages provide more information on both an ecological framework and a protective factors framework for prevention.

  • Ecological framework for prevention
  • Protective factors framework

Primary prevention

Primary prevention activities are directed at the general population and attempt to stop maltreatment before it occurs. All members of the community have access to and may benefit from these services. Primary prevention activities with a universal focus seek to raise the awareness of the general public, service providers, and decision-makers about the scope and problems associated with child maltreatment. Universal approaches to primary prevention might include:

  • Public service announcements that encourage positive parenting
  • Parent education programs and support groups that focus on child development, age-appropriate expectations, and the roles and responsibilities of parenting
  • Family support and family strengthening programs that enhance the ability of families to access existing services, and resources to support positive interactions among family members
  • Public awareness campaigns that provide information on how and where to report suspected child abuse and neglect

Secondary prevention

Secondary prevention activities with a high-risk focus are offered to populations that have one or more risk factors associated with child maltreatment, such as poverty, parental substance abuse, young parental age, parental mental health concerns, and parental or child disabilities. Programs may target services for communities or neighborhoods that have a high incidence of any or all of these risk factors. Approaches to prevention programs that focus on high-risk populations might include:

  • Parent education programs located in high schools, focusing on teen parents, or those within substance abuse treatment programs for mothers and families with young children
  • Parent support groups that help parents deal with their everyday stresses and meet the challenges and responsibilities of parenting
  • Home visiting programs that provide support and assistance to expecting and new mothers in their homes
  • Respite care for families that have children with special needs
  • Family resource centers that offer information and referral services to families living in low-income neighborhoods

Tertiary prevention

Tertiary prevention activities focus on families where maltreatment has already occurred (indicated) and seek to reduce the negative consequences of the maltreatment and to prevent its recurrence. These prevention programs may include services such as:

  • Intensive family preservation services with trained mental health counselors that are available to families 24 hours per day for a short period of time (e.g., 6 to 8 weeks)
  • Parent mentor programs with stable, non-abusive families acting as “role models” and providing support to families in crisis
  • Parent support groups that help parents transform negative practices and beliefs into positive parenting behaviors and attitudes
  • Mental health services for children and families affected by maltreatment to improve family communication and functioning

Child Sex Trafficking

Recommendations

After first learning about human trafficking, many people want to help in some way but do not know how. Here are just a few ideas for your consideration.

1. Learn the red flags that may indicate human trafficking and ask follow up questions so that you can help identify a potential trafficking victim. Human trafficking awareness training is available for individuals, businesses, first responders, law enforcement, and federal employees.

2. In the United States, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 (24/7) to get help and connect with a service provider in your area, report a tip with information on potential human trafficking activity; or learn more by requesting training, technical assistance, or resources. Call federal law enforcement directly to report suspicious activity and get help from the Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-347-2423 (24/7), or submit a tip online at http://www.ice.gov/tips, or from the U.S. Department of Justice at 1-888-428-7581 from 9:00am to 5:00pm (EST). Victims, including undocumented individuals, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.

3. Be a conscientious consumer. Discover your Slavery Footprint, and check out the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Encourage companies, including your own, to take steps to investigate and eliminate slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains and to publish the information for consumer awareness.

4. Incorporate human trafficking information into your professional associations’ conferences, trainings, manuals, and other materials as relevant [example].

5. Join or start a grassroots anti-trafficking coalition.

6. Meet with and/or write to your local, state, and federal government representatives to let them know that you care about combating human trafficking in your community, and ask what they are doing to address human trafficking in your area.

7. Distribute public awareness materials available from the Department of Health and Human Services or Department of Homeland Security.

8. Volunteer to do victim outreach or offer your professional services to a local anti-trafficking organization.

9. Donate funds or needed items to an anti-trafficking organization in your area.

10. Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.

11. Host an awareness event to watch and discuss a recent human trafficking documentary. On a larger scale, host a human trafficking film festival.

12. Encourage your local schools to partner with students and include the issue of modern day slavery in their curriculum. As a parent, educator, or school administrator, be aware of how traffickers target school-aged children.

13. Set up a Google alert to receive current human trafficking news.

14. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper about human trafficking in your community.

15. Start or sign a human trafficking petition.

16. Businesses: Provide internships, job skills training, and/or jobs to trafficking survivors. Consumers: Purchase items made by trafficking survivors such as from Jewel Girls or Made by Survivors.

17. Students: Take action on your campus. Join or establish a university or secondary school club to raise awareness about human trafficking and initiate action throughout your local community. Consider doing one of your research papers on a topic concerning human trafficking. Professors: Request that human trafficking be an issue included in university curriculum. Increase scholarship about human trafficking by publishing an article, teaching a class, or hosting a symposium.

18. Law Enforcement Officials: Join or start a local human trafficking task force.

19. Mental Health or Medical Providers: Extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims assisted by nearby anti-trafficking organizations. Train your staff on how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and assist victims.

20. Attorneys: Look for signs of human trafficking among your clients. Offer pro-bono services to trafficking victims or anti-trafficking organizations. Learn about and offer to human trafficking victims the legal benefits for which they are eligible. Assist anti-trafficking NGOs with capacity building and legal work.

 

Bullying

Recommendations

Bullying can threaten student’s physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn. The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. There are a number of things school staff can do to make schools safer and prevent bullying.

  • Getting Started

Assess school prevention and intervention efforts around student behavior, including substance use and violence. You may be able to build upon them or integrate bullying prevention strategies. Many programs help address the same protective and risk factors that bullying programs do.

Conduct assessments in your school to determine how often bullying occurs, where it happens, how students and adults intervene, and whether your prevention efforts are working.

It is important for everyone in the community to work together to send a unified message against bullying. Launch an awareness campaign to make the objectives known to the school, parents, and community members. Establish a school safety committee or task force to plan, implement, and evaluate your school’s bullying prevention program.

Create a mission statement, code of conduct, school-wide rules, and a bullying reporting system. These establish a climate in which bullying is not acceptable. Disseminate and communicate widely.

Establish a school culture of acceptance, tolerance and respect. Use staff meetings, assemblies, class and parent meetings, newsletters to families, the school website, and the student handbook to establish a positive climate at school. Reinforce positive social interactions and inclusiveness.

Build bullying prevention material into the curriculum and school activities. Train teachers and staff on the school’s rules and policies. Give them the skills to intervene consistently and appropriately.

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

 

Recommendations

  • Enact federal legislation to end all federal monies to school districts that have established corporal punishment.
  • Provide additional federal monies to improve education in those school districts that ban corporal punishment in the schools.
  • The ACLU and Human Rights Watch (ACLU/HRW should bring a lawsuit before the United States Supreme Court for the disproportionate use of corporal punishment in 20 states based on race and disability status of students based on the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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  • In the law, the U.S. Congress should enact legislation to end inequality of assault and battery offenses based on age of the victim. The federal government should enact legislation to end state’s rights where corporal punishment is concerned based on discrimination and arbitrary use of it.
  • Federal legislation should be enacted to deny Social Security, retirement pensions, or any other benefits to all teachers and administrators who use corporal punishment.

 

Kidnapping

General Tips

Child abduction by a stranger usually ends badly.  Each year, approximately 58,000 missing children are abducted by non-family members. Typically, strangers who kidnap children commit their crimes with intent to harm their young victims. In nearly half of the non-family child abduction cases, the victim is sexually assaulted.

Every day, these offenders lure unsuspecting children into vehicles and homes. Most of these kids are not prepared for the reality of “stranger danger” and, therefore, tend to trust unknown adults.

Most abducted children are eventually recovered, but the majority of these children return home with visible or emotional scars. A small number of kidnapped children are never located. And, in rare instances, some abducted children are murdered by the stranger who betrayed their trust.

Despite the grim statistics, you have the ability to reduce the likelihood of child abduction. By joining other parents and collectively teaching your kids the importance of stranger danger, you can stop these appalling crimes before they happen.

     Get your child a passport. A passport is important for your child because it’s harder for somebody else to get one if they take them. If someone else is attempting to get a passport for your child, the process will take some time, and the time will work in your favor.

Travel to school with your child every few weeks. Check out the route and observe the individuals who come in contact with your child. Typical abductors are people who see your child every day, and your child may even speak to this person.

Teach your child to ask Mom or Dad before assisting or going with another adult. Children need to know they can tell their parents anything.

GPS is not a good protector of children, because predators are familiar with these devices. Get an ID bracelet for your child and put the child’s name, the word “reward” and your phone number on the backside. Tell your child if someone tries to take them, remove the bracelet and throw it on the ground. Someone will find it and contact you. Law enforcement will strengthen their search once they have a clue.

If your child is missing, make sure to tell authorities about the tactics you’ve taught your child. They can incorporate those clues in their search.

  • Tell your children to always walk or play in groups. Predators search for isolated targets such as children who are walking alone or playing alone. Share this important lesson with other parents. If you see a friend or neighbor’s young child walking alone, make sure to include that particular neighbor in your stranger-danger strategy. For instance, you could suggest a buddy or carpool plan to get neighboring children to and from school.
  • You should always know where your kids are going, even if they leave the house with another trusted adult. If your children spend time at their friends’ homes, you should discuss a mutual child-watch plan with other parents. If your children are young, explain to these parents that you do not allow your children to play outside unsupervised. Promise to keep a similar close watch on their children when they play at your house. If your children walk or ride their bikes to other nearby houses, designate safe places for them to run if threatened by a stranger.
  • Keep a list of phone numbers of other nearby parents and offer your number to these parents. You can quickly check on the location of your children if needed.
  • Teach your kids about strangers. Tell them that a stranger is any adult they do not know. Introduce your children to other parents you trust. Meet the children of these parents, so you will become a familiar face to the kids. Ideally, these children will be able to pick out a few friendly adults in a crowd of strangers.
  • In addition to other parents, your kids should know which strangers are safe. Store clerks, police officers, teachers, people who are behind desks in office buildings, mail-carriers, and mothers with children are generally safe strangers. Explain to your children that they can trust these strangers if they ever need help and they cannot locate an adult they recognize. Teach your children that stores, schools, libraries, and restaurants are all safe public places where they can run if they are in jeopardy.
  • Practice a secret code word with your children. Choose a word that would not be easy for a stranger to guess. Use this code word when another adult is required to transport your child. Tell your kids they should never get into a car with someone who does not know the code word. Share the code word with your children and other adults you trust. Change the word as often as needed. Instruct other parents to develop their own family code words.
  • Teach your kids about the common lures used by abductors. Often, a kidnapper appeals to victims by asking for help in finding a lost animal. Sometimes, the stranger will ask a child for directions. Occasionally, abductors know the child’s name or the names of the child’s parents. Perpetrators attempt to use this knowledge to gain the child’s trust. You should tell your children that adults ask other adults for help when they are truly searching for lost pets or when they need any other type of assistance. Also, repeat to your children the importance of the family code word. If a stranger knows the child’s name, but does not mention the code word, that stranger is probably a threat.
  • Practice screaming with your children. If a stranger attempts to talk to or grab your children, your children should know to shout, “No!” or “Fire!” Try to recruit the help of other parents. The group of children can rehearse screaming at strangers by role-playing.

For more information on ways to keep your child safe, please see the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Also, please consider aiding law enforcement officials in finding missing children by signing up to receive AMBER Alerts.

 

 

The following tips come from Jaime A. Heidel, a Yahoo contributor on How to prevent kidnapping on “Seven Tips to Keep Your Child Safe [What You and Your Child Need to Know].”

Each year tens of thousands of children are kidnapped. Children disappear on their way home from school, during a trip to the grocery store and sometimes right out of their own backyards.

Tip 1 – Never Talk to Strangers

Children are naturally open and friendly and while it is an endearing characteristic, a child that is too trusting may fall into the hands of a smooth-talking stranger. Teach children never to speak to strangers and explain to them that if they are approached by a stranger to run away immediately and tell you or another known, trusted adult. It is also important to explain to children about “safe strangers” such as policemen, firemen and store clerks so they know whom to trust should they become lost or need help.

Tip 2 – Teach Awareness

With all the gizmos and gadgets around to distract children on a day-to-day basis, it is important to remind them to be aware of their surroundings. If your child walks home from the bus stop alone with an MP3 player on his or her ears, he or she will make an easy target. Let your children know how important it is to take note of a strange car or anybody following them on foot. Tell them in order to do this, they need to turn the music off and stay alert.

Tip 3 – Be Buddies

In a crowded store, you’ve always got one eye on your child. Reinforce this “buddy system” by teaching your child to watch out for you. Let him or her know that if he or she loses sight of you to call out. This is another way to be proactive and teach awareness.

Tip 4 – Self Defense

Your child doesn’t need to take a martial arts class to learn some basic self-defense. Though most children are reluctant to be rude to an adult, it is important to explain to your child that if a stranger grabs him or her that all bets are off. Teach your child to kick a stranger in sensitive areas like shins, knees and groin. Tell your child to scream, “You’re not my mommy or you’re not my daddy” as loud as they can and do everything in his or her power to draw attention to the scene and get away.

Tip 5 – Lock Your Doors

Sometimes children are kidnapped right out of their own homes. Though it’s tempting to leave doors open with just a screen on a warm summer day, your child at play on the living room floor can be an easy target, especially if the door opens to the backyard. Be sure to close and lock all doors if your child is playing alone.

Tip 6 – Safety in Numbers

Teach your child that there is safety in numbers. If your child is old enough to go to the park, playground or mall with friends, teach your child not to wander out of eyesight of the group. Kidnappers usually prefer to abduct children who are alone and will rarely target a child with two or three buddies around, especially in a crowded place.

Tip 7 – Internet Safety

These days, almost every child is online. Keep your child safe by explaining that everybody he or she does not know in real life is a stranger, even if he or she has spent time “chatting” with an online friend. Tell children never to give out any personal information over the Internet, including last name, telephone number, street address or school they attend. That thirteen-year-old boy from the next town over your daughter has made friends with could be an adult in disguise attempting to target children. Anybody can be whomever they wish to be online and it is important to explain this. No offline meetings should ever take place without an adult being present in a public setting.

It is important to reinforce what you’ve taught by using “role-play”. Practice how to respond if approached by a stranger. This will increase child confidence and encourage him or her to ask any questions he or she may have. These tips on how to prevent kidnapping should go a long way in keeping children safe.

 

Post Script

This concludes my four-part series on “Taking Aim at Violence against Children.” The events in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 brought the nation to tears, anguish and despair. People on the streets were incredulous that a lone killer had the temerity to commit such heinous acts as the murder of 20 first graders and 6 adults. This event, and the President’s demand for action, produced a Title Wave of public sentiment—that now was the time for change. As the dust settled in the weeks following the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, the main issue around the country, and in the halls of Congress, became crystalized around the pressing issue of gun violence.

However, what has been largely overlooked by the public during this debate on gun violence, despite its current importance, is the larger contextual nature of violence directed toward children in this society. Gun violence is simply the “tip of the iceberg” where violence against children is concerned.

Cognitive Dissonance, as a psychological concept, often suggests, where human and social behavior is concerned, that there is a huge gap between one’s beliefs and one’s actual behavior. This is certainly the case where violence against children is concerned. People tend to seek consistency in their beliefs and perceptions. So what happens when one of our beliefs conflicts with another previously held belief?

The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance. Cognitive dissonance plays a role in many value judgments, decisions and evaluations. Becoming aware of how conflicting beliefs impact the decision-making process is a great way to improve your ability to make faster and more accurate choices.

If one really believes or desires to protect children from harm shouldn’t one come to grips with the problem of all violence or harm against children? Addressing mass murder and gun violence is important, but it does not address the larger issue of violence against children. People believe that children should be protected from harm, yet fail to recognize or do anything about violence against children in various other social contexts. In order to eliminate or reduce cognitive dissonance one can either alter one’s beliefs, or change one’s behavior, in order to achieve consistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actual behavior.

If I’ve done anything constructive during this four-part series it has been to put the spotlight on many of the issues confronting children as they grow up. I am a social scientist, not normally concerned with advocacy. But I can clearly see my own inconsistency between wanting to become a child advocate and being a person who dwells in the comfortable, sometimes erudite and esoteric, house of social science. Perhaps the time has come for all of us to change our lives and get involved in helping those we really care about the most—our children and grandchildren.

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Taking Aim at Violence against Children

Part III

Child Sex Trafficking

Bullying

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

 

Introduction

Part III of this four-part series is about child sex trafficking, bullying, and corporal punishment in the schools.  All of these areas pertain to violence perpetrated against children in the United States. Some predators in this country are out there lurking in the shadows, waiting for the opportunity to harm children. Some of these predators are in plain sight like the classroom of many schools. Some of these are simply bullies on the playground, or who also use the internet as a proxy for bullying. Some predators are pragmatic, looking to lure or abduct children for sex trafficking.

School is supposed to be a safe haven for children where learning and educational growth takes place. Unfortunately, what the public believes about schools is not what really takes place there. Predators of all kinds are in waiting for your child to come to school. There are administrators and teachers who are sexual predators by molesting children under their charge. There are female teachers who have been added to state sex offender registration files following arrest and conviction for having sex with their students (usually teenage boys). There are male teachers and coaches who have also been arrested for molesting children (Does Pennsylvania State University and Sandusky come to mind?). School is supposed to be safe for children; sometimes it isn’t.

Child Sex Trafficking

Child sex trafficking is the recruitment, smuggling, transporting, harboring, buying or selling of a child through force, threats, fraud, deception, or coercion for the purposes of exploitation, prostitution, pornography, migrant work, sweat shops, domestic servitude, forced labor, bondage, peonage or involuntary servitude.

Child sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. UNICEF values the global market of child sex trafficking at over $12 billion a year with over 2 million child victims. Trafficking children into the sex industry is done because there is a demand. Predators seek out vulnerable victims and lure them under false pretenses into situations they cannot escape. No matter the reason, children have become sexual commodities to be bought and sold for the pleasure of exploiters. These children are scarred for life and need help.

Sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade, often at much larger rates than most people realize or understand.  Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues of the overall sex industry, including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution.

Those committing sex trafficking frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry.

Child Trafficking Statistics

  • Child/Human Trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Child/ human trafficking is the  world’s second largest criminal enterprise, after drugs. U.S. State Department
  • The global market of child trafficking is over $12 billion a year with over 2 million child victims. UNICEF
  • As many as 2.8 million children run away each year in the US. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one-third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution and pornography. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
  • The average age of entry for children victimized by the sex trade industry is 12 years. U.S. Department of Justice
  • Approximately 80% of human trafficking victims are women and girls and up to 50% are minors.  U.S.State Department
  • The average number of victims for non-incestuous pedophiles who molest girls is 20, for pedophiles who prefer boys 100! The Association For the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA)
  • 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk every year for commercial sexual exploitation. U.S. Department of Justice
  • 600,000 – 800,000 people are bought and sold across international borders each year; 50% are children, most are female. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade. U.S. Department of State, 2004, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, D.C.
  • An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year.The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. U.S. Department of Justice Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons
  • An average serial child molester may have as many as 400 victims in his lifetime. Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Study
  • Child pornography is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States right now.  Nationally, there has been a 2500% increase in arrests in 10 years. FBI
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which helps to identify and locate children in pornography photos and videos, says its staff reviewed more than 10.5 million images in 2009 alone.
  • Reports of exploited children grow every year. In 2009, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children received more than 120,000 reports on its cyber tip line. In 2010, the number grew to over 160,000 with the vast majority being from child pornography.

Worldwide, 5.5 million children are victims of forced labor and child trafficking. They have been bought and sold, forced into prostitution, or made to work at grueling, dangerous jobs with little or no pay.

To Report Human Trafficking Crimes in Your Area:

For questions, referrals, resources or to report a tip in your area, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 or email the organization at NHTRC@PolarisProject.org

 

Bullying

It has been a rather eye-opening experience writing this four-part series to realize sadly that people of all ages and persuasions in our society can really be quite unkind to one another. Bullying isn’t just about children on the playground at school. All throughout one’s life bullying can occur in a number of social contexts including: Cyber bullying, Disability bullying, Gay bullying, Legal bullying, Military bullying, Parental bullying, Prison bullying, School bullying, Sexual bullying, and even Workplace bullying in such areas as academia, blue collar jobs, information technology, medicine, nursing, and teaching.

Because of space limitations, and my emphasis on children, I’m only going to discuss definitions of bullying, psychological characteristics of those who bully, parental bullying, school bullying and discuss the effects of bullying.

In Part IV I will set forth a set of recommendations on how to more effectively take aim at this form of child abuse. Some of the ideas will be my own, but others will come from organizations that want to do something about it.

Definition of Bullying

Bullying is defined as the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. The behavior can be habitual and involve an imbalance of social or physical power. It can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability. If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a “target.” Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal, and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation.

Bullying is detrimental to students’ well-being and development. And, it can take many forms and occurs in many different contexts. A bullying culture can develop in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, church, family, the workplace, home, and neighborhoods. For purposes of this Blog, emphasis will be placed on bullying within the school and its effect on children.

U.S. National Center for Education Statistics suggests that bullying can be classified into two categories:

  1. Direct bullying, and
  2. Indirect bullying (which is also known as social aggression).

Psychological Characteristics of Those Who Bully

Studies have shown that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying. Research on the self-esteem of bullies has produced equivocal results. While some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic, bullies can also use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self-esteem: by demeaning others, the abuser feels empowered. Bullies may bully out of jealousy or because they themselves are bullied. Some have argued that a bully reflects the environment of his home, repeating the model he learned from his parents. Sometimes kids who are dominated by their parents often transfer their anger and bully other kids at school or in the neighborhood.

Researchers have identified other risk factors such as depression and personality, as well as quickness to anger and use of force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, mistaking others’ actions as hostile, concern with preserving self-image, and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions. A combination of these factors may also be causes of this behavior. In one recent study of youth, a combination of antisocial traits and depression was found to be the best predictor of youth violence, whereas video game violence and television violence exposure were not predictive of these behaviors.

According to some researchers, bullies may be inclined toward negativity and perform poorly academically. Dr. Cook says that “a typical bully has trouble resolving problems with others and also has trouble academically. He or she usually has negative attitudes and beliefs about others, feels negatively toward him or herself, comes from a family environment characterized by conflict and poor parenting, perceives school as negative, and is negatively influenced by peers.”

Parental Bullying

Parents who may displace their anger, insecurity, or a persistent need to dominate and control, upon their children in excessive ways have been proven to increase the likelihood that their own children will in turn become overly aggressive or controlling towards their peers.

The American Psychological Association advises on its website that parents who may suspect that their own children may be engaging in bullying activities amongst their peers, should carefully consider the examples which they themselves may be setting for their own children, regarding how they typically interact with their own peers, colleagues, and children.

Do the parents typically motivate their peers and their children with positive and self-confidence building incentives, or do they most often attempt to motivate their peers and children with certain “threats” of one form of “punishment” or “reprisal” or another (emotional or physical blackmail)?

Research indicates that adults who bully have authoritarian personalities, combined with a strong need to control or dominate. It has also been suggested that a prejudicial view of subordinates can be a particularly strong risk factor.

School Bullying

Bullying can occur in nearly any part in or around the school building, though it may occur more frequently in physical education classes and activities, recess, hallways, bathrooms, on school buses and while waiting for buses, and in classes that require group work and/or after school activities.

One factor that is often overlooked is that the bully has an overall inferiority complex.  No matter what the social context, the bully often is actually a coward masquerading as a tough guy.

Bullying in school sometimes consists of a group of students taking advantage of or isolating one student in particular and gaining the loyalty of bystanders who want to avoid becoming the next victim. These bullies may taunt and tease their target before physically bullying the target. Bystanders may participate or watch, sometimes out of fear of becoming the next victim.

Bullying can also be perpetrated by teachers and the school system itself: There is an inherent power differential in the system that can easily predispose to subtle or covert abuse such as passive aggression, humiliation, or exclusion — even while maintaining overt commitments to anti-bullying policies.

Effects of Bullying on Those Who are Targets

Mona O’Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College in Dublin, has written, “There is a growing body of research which indicates that individuals, whether child or adult, who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness which can sometimes lead to suicide.” Those who have been the targets of bullying can suffer from long term emotional and behavioral problems. Bullying can cause loneliness, depression, anxiety, lead to low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to illness.

Bullying has also been shown to cause maladjustment in young children, and victims of bullying who were also bullies themselves exhibit even greater social difficulties. In the long term it can lead to posttraumatic stress syndrome and an inability to form relationships.

There is evidence that bullying increases the risk of suicide. It is estimated that between 15 and 25 children commit suicide every year in the UK alone, because they are being bullied. Bullied students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Since then, bullying has been more closely linked to high school violence in general.

Serial killers were frequently bullied through direct and indirect methods as children or adolescents. Henry Lee Lucas, a serial killer and diagnosed psychopath, said the ridicule and rejection he suffered as a child caused him to hate everyone. Kenneth Bianchi, a serial killer and member of the Hillside Stranglers, was teased as a child because he urinated in his pants and suffered twitching, and as a teenager was ignored by his peers.

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

Incidence of Corporal Punishment in the United States

In 2008, 223,190 students received corporal punishment in schools in the 20 remaining states that allow hitting or hurting students. The top ten states in administering corporal punishment included:

Texas (49,197)

Mississippi (38,131)

Alabama (33,716)

Arkansas (22,314)

Georgia (18,249)

Oklahoma (14,828)

Tennessee (14,568)

Louisiana (11,080)

Florida (7,185)

Missouri (5,159)

The top five states listed above accounted for 72.4% of the number of children who were victimized by corporal punishment. All five top states in corporal punishment in 2008 were Red States in the 2012 presidential election. Of the top 10 states in corporal punishment 9 out of 10 of these states were Red States in the 2012 election.

Impact of Corporal Punishment

One area of logical importance is to answer the question, what impact does Corporal Punishment have on academic success of students? On April 15, 2010 a joint HRW/ACLU statement was made in a hearing before the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities. The title of their statement fits in very nicely with my question. The title of the statement was “Corporal Punishment in Schools and Its Effect on Academic Success.”

I. Introduction

Dear Chairperson McCarthy, Ranking Member Platts, and Members of the Subcommittee:

On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), its over half a million members, countless additional supporters and activists, and fifty-three affiliates nationwide and Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, we applaud the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities for conducting a hearing concerning the ongoing corporal punishment of American public school children and its impact on their educational success.

The ACLU is a nationwide, non-partisan organization working daily in courts, Congress, and communities to defend and preserve the civil rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.  For thirty years, Human Rights Watch has investigated human rights violations wherever they occur, including in the United States, exposed the perpetrators, and advocated for change. We are pleased to submit this written statement for the record on the issue of corporal punishment in public schools – a vitally important issue affecting children’s access to high-quality education and a safe and supportive learning atmosphere.

II. The Ongoing Use of Corporal Punishment in Public Schools

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students are subjected to corporal punishment in public schools.[1]  Despite the many problems associated with the hitting or paddling of students, corporal punishment is a legal form of school discipline in 20 states.[2]  Of these, thirteen states have reported that corporal punishment was inflicted on over one thousand students[3] — and eight states reported its use against at least ten thousand students[4]— during the 2006-2007 school year. While significant, these numbers do not tell the whole story.  These statistics only reflect data which has been reported to the Department of Education and they only include the number of students who are subjected to corporal punishment during the school year, not the total number of times that an individual student has been hit over his or her educational career.[5]

Aside from the infliction of pain and the physical injuries which often result from the use of physical punishments, these violent disciplinary methods also impact students’ academic achievement and long-term well-being.[6]  Despite significant evidence that corporal punishment is detrimental to a productive learning environment, there is currently no federal prohibition on the use of physical discipline against children in public school.  In fact, children in some states receive greater protections against corporal punishment in detention facilities than they do in their public schools.[7]  For this reason and others, the ACLU and HRW are encouraged that this subcommittee is seeking to address the problems stemming from corporal punishment in schools.

III. The Disproportionate Use of Corporal Punishment

Students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to corporal punishment, hampering their access to a supportive learning environment.  According to the Department of Education, while African Americans make up 17.1 percent of public school students nationwide, they accounted for 35.6 percent of those who were paddled during the 2006-2007 school year.[8] In A Violent Education and Impairing Education, two joint reports published by the ACLU and HRW detailing the effects of corporal punishment in public schools, interviewees noted the disproportionate application of corporal punishment:

  • One Mississippi high school student described the administration of corporal punishment in her school this way: “every time you walk down the hall you see a black kid getting whipped. I would say out of the whole school there are only about three white kids who have gotten paddled.”[9]
  • A Mississippi teacher also noted the racial disparity in the administration of corporal punishment: “I’ve heard this said at my school and at other schools: ‘this child should get less whips, it’ll leave marks.’ Students that are dark-skinned, it takes more to let their skin be bruised. Even with all black students, there is an imbalance: darker-skinned students get worse punishment. This really affected me, being a dark-skinned person myself.”[10]

Evidence shows that students with disabilities are also disproportionally subjected to corporal punishment. The Department of Education has reported that although students with disabilities constitute 13.7 percent of all public school students, they make up 18.8 percent of those who are subjected to corporal punishment.[11]  In many of these cases, students were punished for exhibiting behaviors related to their disabilities, such as autism or Tourette’s syndrome.[12]  The effects of corporal punishment on students with disabilities can dramatically impact their behavior and hamper their academic performance. In Impairing Education, parents and grandparents of students with disabilities noted the changes in behavior and barriers to educational achievement stemming from the use of corporal punishment:

  • A grandmother of a student who has Asperger’s syndrome withdrew him from his Oklahoma school in part because of the hostile environment stemming from frequent use of corporal punishment: “It made him much more introverted. He very much didn’t want to go to school . . . No one’s supposed to go to school to be tortured, school is supposed to be fun.” [13]
  • A mother of a student with autism reported that her son’s behavior changed after he was struck in his Florida school: “He’s an avoider by nature, before he was never aggressive. Now, he struggles with anger; right after the incidents he’d have anger explosions.”[14]

Hitting any student should be an unacceptable practice, but the disproportionate application of corporal punishment further undermines the educational environment for minority groups and students with disabilities.[15]  A federal prohibition on corporal punishment in public schools is necessary to protect students from the discriminatory impact and the academic harms which it brings.       

IV. The Impact of Corporal Punishment on Students’ Academic Performance

Harsh physical punishments do not improve students’ in-school behavior or academic performance.  In fact, one recent study found that in states where corporal punishment is frequently used, schools have performed worse academically than those in states that prohibit corporal punishment.[16]  While most states demonstrated improvements in their American College Testing (ACT) scores from 1994 to 2008, “as a group, states that paddled the most improved their scores the least.”[17] At the same time “the ten states with the longest histories of forbidding corporal punishment improved the most” with improvement rates three times higher than those states which reported frequent use of corporal punishment.[18]

Many children who have been subjected to hitting, paddling or other harsh disciplinary practices have reported subsequent problems with depression, fear and anger.[19]  These students frequently withdraw from school activities and disengage academically.[20] The Society for Adolescent Medicine has found that victims of corporal punishment often develop “deteriorating peer relationships, difficulty with concentration, lowered school achievement, antisocial behavior, intense dislike of authority, somatic complaints, a tendency for school avoidance and school drop-out, and other evidence of negative high-risk adolescent behavior.”[21]  One Mississippi student interviewed for A Violent Education described the effects of corporal punishment on his attitude towards school:

  • “[Y]ou could get a paddling for almost anything. I hated it. It was used as a way to degrade, embarrass students. . . I said I’d never take another paddling, it’s humiliating, and it’s degrading. Some teachers like to paddle students. Paddling causes you to lose respect for a person, stop listening to them.”[22]

Corporal punishment places parents and teachers in positions where they may have to choose between educational advancement and students’ physical well-being.  For instance, some parents who learn that their children are being struck at public school find themselves without recourse, unable to effectively opt-out from the practice, and unable to obtain legal or other redress when their children have been paddled against their wishes.  Ultimately some parents find that the only way they can protect their children from physical harm is to withdraw them from school altogether.[23]  Similarly, teachers who work in schools where corporal punishment is administered are often reluctant to send disruptive students out of the classroom because they are afraid the students will be beaten.[24]

Moreover, a public school’s use of corporal punishment affects every student in that school, including those who are not personally subjected to hitting or paddling.  The prevalent use of physical violence against students creates an overall threatening school atmosphere that impacts students’ ability to perform academically.[25]  Often, children who experience or witness physical violence will themselves develop disruptive and violent behaviors, further disturbing their classmates’ learning as well as their own.[26]

Corporal punishment is a destructive form of discipline that is ineffective in producing educational environments in which students can thrive. Rather than relying on harsh and threatening disciplinary tactics, schools and teachers should be encouraged to develop positive behavior supports (PBS), which have proven effective in reducing the need for harsh discipline while supporting a safe and productive learning environment.[27] The Positive Behavior for Safe and Effective Schools Act (H.R. 2597) would help states and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) create positive learning environments by allowing them to use Title I funds to develop PBS practices.  This bill would also require the Department of Education to provide assistance and support so that states may fully realize the potential of supportive and flexible behavior discipline practices. By abandoning ineffective and brutal disciplinary practices, and by encouraging the adoption of PBS methods, our nation can provide opportunities for all students to achieve academic success in a supportive and safe school environment.

V. Recommendations

In order to prevent the continued use of violence against children in our schools, we recommend that Congress:

  • Introduce and pass federal legislation prohibiting the use of corporal punishment in public schools, conditioned on the receipt of federal funding.
  • Define corporal punishment as any punishment by which physical force is used with the intention of causing some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.
  • Promote the use of positive behavioral supports by passing H.R. 2597, and provide teachers and school administrators with the tools and resources necessary to develop safe and effective methods for encouraging positive student behavior
  • Provide students and their families with a private right of action to enforce their rights to be free from physical punishment and to a safe and supportive learning environment in administrative or judicial actions.
  • Require all schools and LEAs to report all instances where corporal punishment is used, not just the number of students who are punished in a given year. This data should be collected and disaggregated by student subgroups to assess disproportionate application.
  • Provide funding to those states which implement PBS practices so that teachers may be effectively trained to create safe and supportive school discipline plans.

VI. Conclusion

The use of violence against students is never an acceptable means of punishment – it harms students physically, psychologically and academically.  The use of corporal punishment in schools is interfering with students’ right to be treated with dignity and, as a result, is interfering with their right to a quality education.  By prohibiting the use of corporal punishment and helping states to develop safe and effective behavioral practices, this Congress could help to ensure that our nation’s children are able to achieve their full educational potential in a supportive learning environment.

Research Findings on Youth Violence

There are many reasons why violence and corporal punishment is psychologically and sociologically connected in American society. This and the next section will clarify what that connection is. Sadly, the data will show that there is even a correlation between corporal punishment and school shootings. What follows are some highlights of these connections based on a review of the research literature.  Numerous reports in the popular media have speculated on plausible causes for such extreme youth violence—guns were too available; parents were not involved; boys are socialized to repress emotion; violence permeates the culture; and children are desensitized to the effects of violence by television, movies, and videogames. Causal factors have been suspected across all of the nested systems that Bronfenbrenner (1979) described as composing the ecology of child development and all aspects of what Super and Harkness (1986) have termed the developmental niche. However, there have been relatively few empirical investigations of the cultural contributions to youth violence.

In one such study, Lynch and Cicchetti (1998) examined neighborhood influences in the development and functioning of 7- to 12-year-olds. They found that children displayed more externalizing problems when they had a history of abuse and also lived in neighborhoods characterized by high levels of violence. Said another way, aspects of children’s direct experience (abuse) and the larger environment in which it occurred (violence in the neighborhood, not necessarily involving the child or family directly) interacted to predict levels of externalizing or “acting out” behavior.

Regionally based differences in the cultural sanctioning of violence are evident within the United States. Cohen and colleagues, for example, found Southerners to be more accepting of interpersonal violence in certain circumstances. Compared to students from the North, college students from southern states were more likely to respond with physiologic arousal (increased cortisol and testosterone levels and aggression) to insults and perceived threats to their honor [Cohen et al., 1996].

Southern white males, in particular, tended to endorse the use of violence for protection, defense, and the socialization of children (Cohen and Nisbett, 1994).

 

Research on Corporal Punishment

Of particular relevance to this Blog is the alleged socialization of children by violent means such as corporal punishment, i.e., the intentional infliction of physical pain in the service of discipline. The application of corporal punishment in schools by individuals serving in loco parentis is described. The research on corporal punishment by parents or other caretakers was described in Part II on child abuse. The practice in schools varies regionally.

Physical punishment has been an integral part of American education since its earliest days (Hyman and Wise, 1979). As recently as 1976, only Massachusetts and New Jersey prohibited school officials from using corporal punishment to discipline students. Currently, school corporal punishment is banned in 30 states and permitted in 20.

The practice is widely allowed by state statute or local district policy in 13 states (AL, AR, CO, ID, IN, KE, LA, MS, MO, NM, SC, TN, TX). Although it is permitted in 10 states, the majority of students attend school in districts that have adopted a ban on corporal punishment (AZ, DE, FL, GA, KS, NC, OH, OK, PA, WY) (National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in the Schools [NCACPS], 1997).

Southern states are overrepresented among permitting states (62% compared with 32% of total), and northeast states among the prohibiting (30% compared with 18% of total).

Several sources of evidence suggest that this policy may be linked to violence at school and beyond.

Hyman (1995) argued persuasively that the infliction of corporal punishment on children in schools is part of a larger web of punitiveness and authoritarian beliefs in American society. Not only does this cultural dependency on punitive measures for societal control mitigate against efforts to ban corporal punishment from the schools nationally, it may also amplify negative consequences for children who are so punished. Strauss (1994) described this phenomenon as a “cultural spillover,” arguing that the spillover of violence from one cultural domain to others accounted for observations that statewide homicide rates and assault rates by children in schools varied with the level of school corporal punishment allowed by the state.

Additional empirical evidence has linked corporal punishment to child abuse and extreme punishment. Maltreatment rates in countries such as Sweden, where corporal punishment of children in any setting is legally banned, as well as in countries such as Finland, China, and Japan, where the practice is rare, are significantly lower than in the United States (Belsky, 1980;Strauss, 1994; Zigler and Hall, 1989).

Within the United States, higher rates of child abuse fatalities occur in states that permit corporal punishment in the schools (Arcus and Ryan, 1999). Finally, Streib [cited in Hyman, 1995] found that states reporting the 10 highest rates of school paddlings were also those with the greatest number of youths awaiting capital punishment in the state judicial system.

Although the correlational nature of these data limits causal inference, critics of school corporal punishment have argued that it encourages aggression by (1) promoting the merits of applying violent responses to children’s behavior, (2) framing violence as an acceptable phenomenon, and (3) modeling its use by authority figures (e.g., American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1997; Hyman and Perone, 1998; Society for Adolescent Medicine, 1992).

The chief rebuttal criticism hinges on the complexity of the issue and numerous confounding factors. Three major correlates of the endorsement and use of corporal punishment—poverty, religious views, and geographic region—are also interwoven with each other and with aggression and violence.

The southern region of the United States, overrepresented among states permittingschool corporal punishment and often referred to as the “Bible belt,” has historically been associated with low per capita income and a high prevalence of fundamentalist religious denominations.

The chronic stresses of impoverishment may exacerbate aggressive tendencies in individuals living under such conditions. Poverty in families has been associated with authoritarian parenting and the physical and emotional neglect of children (Tonge et al., 1975). Additionally, families in poverty in which there are also several young children, male children, and drug or alcohol problems, are among those with the highest rates of physical child abuse (Wolfner and Gelles, 1993).

Poverty is also related to religious affiliation. Fundamentalist or conservative Christian denominations are overrepresented among the poor (McDowell and Friedman, 1979), and these religious traditions promote punitive childrearing strategies that endorse the use of corporal punishment (Ellison et al., 1996; Grasmick and McGill, 1994; Greven, 1991; Kilbourne, 1999).

Prevailing fundamentalist childrearing philosophies may also influence public school education, and they have been used as a basis for opposition to reform initiatives stemming from constructivist (e.g., Piagetian) learning models (Berliner, 1997). Hence, any investigation of the association between school corporal punishment and school violence needs to account for at least these correlated factors.

 

Opposition to Corporal Punishment

People reading this Blog should seriously ask this question: Would you want your children or grandchildren enrolled in a school where they run the risk of being hit or hurt? Even as long ago as 230 years, people felt this was a very bad idea and highly unacceptable. Poland in 1783 was the first country in the world to abolish corporal punishment.

In the United States New Jersey outlawed corporal punishment in 1867. Our southern and mid-western states appear, in the 21st Century, to be a “Wee-bit-slow” to get rid of corporal punishment.

At the current time a majority of thirty out of 50 states (60%) have abolished corporal punishment in their schools. What is it about our predominantly southern and mid-western bible-belt conservative states that cause them to tenaciously hold on to school policies that foster and promote child abuse?  Corporal punishment is often described by psychologists as “sloppy behaviorism” and, as an educational policy or tool, has neither scientific merit nor educational value.

Important prestigious national organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association (AMA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the 3.2 million-member National Education Association (NEA) are unanimous in opposing corporal punishment and institutionalized child abuse in the schools.

Here is an excerpt from the April 14, 2010 NEA letter to the House Education and Labor Committee on Corporal Punishment in schools. According to the NEA, “On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, we write to express our position on corporal punishment and effective school safety strategies, in advance of this week’s Education and Labor Committee hearing on Corporal Punishment in Schools and its Effect on School Success…NEA believes that all educators and students have the right to work and learn in a safe school environment. Educators know that a positive, effective learning environment leads to successful student outcomes. We also know that there is no evidence to support the use of corporal punishment in schools as a strategy that leads to positive student engagement and learning. NEA categorically opposes the use of corporal punishment as a school discipline technique. It is more than ineffective – it is harmful.”

Another letter comes from the United Nations to end the corporal punishment of children. Because of its global importance, I have elected to present it in its entirety.

Statement by the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, at the event on Ending Corporal Punishment of Children

Geneva, Palais des Nations – Room XXII
 22 January 2013

Dear Ambassador,
Permanent Representatives,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very honored and delighted to join you in this discussion on how to end the corporal punishment of children.  I thank the Permanent Missions of Finland, Tunisia and Uruguay for organizing this event. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the work undertaken by civil society to bring this issue close to the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, and particularly the efforts by the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.

We have come a long way since the publication of the UN Study on Violence against Children in 2006, produced by Professor Pinheiro with the support of OHCHR, UNICEF and WHO. As we all know, the UN Study brought to light the tragic reality and magnitude of the problem posed by violence against children, confirming that it exists in every country and takes place in different settings, including the family, the school, institutions and the community.  While six years have passed since then, most of the findings and recommendations of the Study remain valid today. UNICEF’s report on “Child Disciplinary Practices at Home” confirms that violent disciplinary measures are extremely common and that more work is needed to fight violence against children, including corporal punishment, all over the world.

Certainly efforts have been made in a number of regions and countries to implement the UN Study recommendations, and we need to celebrate some of the positive steps. Six years ago, there were only 11 States that had prohibited corporal punishment in all settings. Today, more than 30 States have done so, and 18 others have made public commitments to follow suit.

The UN Study urged States to prohibit all forms of violence against children, in all settings, including all corporal punishment, harmful practices, such as early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation and so-called honor crimes, sexual violence, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment, as required by international treaties, including the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The recently adopted General Comment No. 13 of the CRC, on the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence, reinforces this recommendation.

In addition, this same recommendation has been reiterated by OHCHR in its different reports on child rights to the Human Rights Council. I would like to describe in more detail some references to corporal punishment that feature in our reports, and reflect OHCHR’s position on the matter.

In our latest report, which will be presented to the Council this March, on the right of the child to health, we stress that the burden of mortality and morbidity of children that is attributable to violence is high, particularly during early childhood and adolescence. The report also states that in light of the impact of corporal punishment on children’s health, including fatal and non-fatal injury, as well as psychological and emotional consequences, corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishments in all settings should be prohibited and eliminated.

We also recommend that States review national laws and policies and that comprehensive prohibition of all forms of violence against children be included in legislation. Given the interdependence and indivisibility of rights laid down in the Convention on the Rights of the child, the realization of the right to health is indispensable for the enjoyment of all other rights, and achieving the right to health is likewise dependent on the realization of many of the other rights contained in the Convention.   Thus, if the right of the child to be free from violence (article 19 of the Convention) is not realized, there will be an immediate and negative impact on the child’s right to health.

Similarly in our report on the rights of children in street situations we recommended prohibition of all forms of violence against children living and/or working on the street and implementation of the recommendations made by the UN Study on Violence against children.

Furthermore, in our joint report with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and UNODC on the prevention of violence in the juvenile justice system, we indicated that children in detention are frequently subjected to violence as a punishment for minor offences. We acknowledged that 116 countries have abolished corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions (a positive increase of 10 countries since the UN Study was finalized), but also noted that, despite abolition, violent practices in the juvenile justice system are found in both developed and developing countries. Apart from the use of caning and whipping, children may be punished through confinement in cells for lengthy periods, solitary confinement, food rationing or physical restraints.

Violence against children, including corporal punishment, is a violation of the rights of the child. It conflicts with the child’s human dignity and the right of the child to physical integrity. It also prevents children from reaching their full potential, by putting at risk their right to health, survival and development. The best interests of the child can never be used to justify such practice.  Eliminating violence against children is not only a human rights imperative, but also a means to bring about social changes and attitudes. While appropriate legal frameworks are needed, little will be achieved if we do not work hand in hand to transform attitudes that condone and normalize violence against children, including corporal punishment. The need to promote the values of non-violence and awareness-raising among all those working with children is essential if we want this situation to come to an end.

Let me finish by reinforcing one of the main messages of the UN Study which, without a doubt, we will hear repeated many times today:  violence against children can never be justified and all such violence is preventable.

Many thanks

Connecting Corporal Punishment to Student Deaths in the United States

In 2002 a study was published in the Journal of Aggressive Behavior (28:173–183). Student deaths from school shootings were examined across all 50 states according to the state’s policy on the use of corporal punishment in schools. There was significantly more school shooting deaths found in states allowing school corporal punishment compared with those that do not. The odds of fatal involvement in a school shooting were greatest in states permitting school corporal punishment compared with those prohibiting it (odds ratio, 2.04) or restricting it to districts serving less than half the student population (odds ratio, 1.77). Moreover, the rate of school corporal punishment was moderately correlated with the rate of fatal school shootings both across all states and within the South, the region in which endorsement of school corporal punishment is most prevalent.

The study found evidence that the sanctioning of corporal punishment in the schools is linked with elevated levels of child-directed violence, even when accounting for associated differences in poverty and prevailing conservative Christian ideology both in the United States as a whole and within the Southern region.

Of significance was the finding that children and youths are more likely to die in school shootings in states permitting schools to practice corporal punishment than in states in which the practice has been prohibited. The more physically punitive discipline is practiced in the schools, the more likely students are likely to die in school shootings.

I had to ask myself: why is corporal punishment policy related to school shootings and student murders. The reasons pertain to the fact that corporal punishment policy is a by-product of a historically greater “culture of violence.” This culture of violence (a learned and socially transmitted set of beliefs and behavior from one generation to the next) permeates the social fabric of life in many southern and mid-western states. Any social environment that is more accepting of violence toward children, such as corporal punishment, produces a community over time that reflects deviant cultural norms. Give any profession a free pass to control and/or hurt your child and you open the door directly to exploitation and harm.

In California, prior to that state’s outlawing of corporal punishment, a former student reported that the only thing he learned from the experience of being paddled was to loathe the teacher who did it. Any educational system that reinforces hatred of authority, loathing and fear is highly suspect as not being ready for the all-important mission of education; namely, creating a positive, safe, sound, and valuable educational environment for learning and development.

 

Why Corporal Punishment?

Beyond poverty, backward fundamentalist attitudes, and specific regions of the country, what nexus of influential factors seem to precipitate or connect all the dots that link the philosophy of the region, and aggregate level variables associated with abuse, with those variables that cause teachers and administrators to commit acts of violence against children? What connects the larger structural characteristics of culture with individual acts of violence such as corporal punishment? Well, below is the answer.

There appears to this Blogger to be four major factors that cause teachers and administrators in southern and mid-western states to find corporal punishment rewarding where students are hit or hurt. These factors include: (1) Deviant Cultural Values, (2) History of the South, (3) Professional and Social Incompetence, and (4) Predators in School Settings. Some of the reasons relate to deviant social values reflected in these regions of the United States; other reasons pertain to the tainted philosophies of bible-belt religions (spare the rod and spoil the child and other antiquated nonsense).

Closer to the level of teachers and administrators there is professional and social incompetence (how they interact with young children and students). Finally, lack of school and district wide screening for predators, including sexual predators who wield a paddle, whip, or belt for sadistic or sexual stimulation and satisfaction. Given things like boring holes in paddles so as to increase pain, blistering, and longer-lasting suffering, it is clear that these degenerates are falling through the cracks. Screeners don’t suffer, children do.

Deviant Cultural Values

Institutionalized violence like corporal punishment often mask underlying deviant cultural values in predominantly southern and mid-western states. Corporal punishment has been outlawed in the nation’s prisons, jails, and adult and youth correctional facilities for decades (Supreme Court and District Court rulings). It is ironic in the 21st Century that children in school settings are deemed less important and possess less value for protection from harm— than do our offender populations. This goes back to the phenomena of cognitive dissonance discussed in Part I of this series. The decision of the United States Supreme Court in 1977 to allow corporal punishment in the schools as legal under the U.S. Constitution would be a lot different now. Given the disproportionate administration of corporal punishment to black students and disabled students, and the sexually deviant motivations of degenerate teachers and administrators who enjoy hurting children, it is very likely a Federal District Court or the U.S. Supreme Court would now invoke the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution to end corporal punishment. And, the courts would create remedies of criminal indictment in federal courts for all violators subsequent to their ruling.

One may wonder why do school districts in southern and mid-western states condone violence against children at all? Why do they continue to be an embarrassment before the rest of the nation? Are they really that uncaring, or simply not too bright? Why do they take an on-purpose “blind eye” to all the relevant educational and psychological knowledge available to them? What role have deviant cultural norms motivated school districts in the south and mid-west to deny scientific knowledge that corporal punishment has short and long term effects that are deleterious to a child’s health and well-being? What would cause some educators to bury their head in the sand where corporal punishment is concerned?

Social History of the South

Perhaps the most major reason of all for continuation of deviant cultural values, into the modern era, is rooted in their past. During the racism of “Jim Crow” there was a legacy of extreme violence over others where the murder, beating and whipping blacks occurred during slavery, but also continued in the Post-Construction era following the Civil War with the criminal acts of the Klu Klux Klan. The era of “Jim Crow” is dead, but its legacy lives on, evidently well into the 21st Century.

When the Civil Rights Movement began to exert its powerful influence in the 1960s, reinforced by the Courts, southerners began to feel impotent, lost status nationally and had to come to grips with the dishonor and shame of their past. Faced with the lasting taint of racism these communities and school districts found a way to have control in social life and continue their legacy of human dominance over others. This legacy still portends a disdain for liberalism, civil and human rights.

In southern and mid-western school districts that practice corporal punishment, it would be very instructive to know the race/ethnicity of students victimized by corporal punishment. Are blacks and Hispanics more likely to be victimized by corporal punishment than white students?

Professional and Social Incompetence

One might wonder why it is school districts that prohibit corporal punishment have much higher educational achievement levels on standardized tests than do school districts authorizing violence with corporal punishment.

These differences reflect more than student natural ability. It’s more about the schools involved and their ability (or lack thereof) to use the best teaching and motivational strategies that would achieve higher student scores. One might also wonder what is about the 20 states in the US that condone violence against children, why they fail to heed the overwhelming evidence that corporal punishment is sloppy behaviorism and lacks not even a scintilla of evidence to support it.

Predators in School Settings

At the current time the news headlines are filled with all sorts of school district scandals involving racketeering, corruption, and theft. In addition, it is no secret that teachers have committed serious moral and professional violations, and criminal acts that relate to sex scandals with students. All of this raises the issue of screening. Although not foolproof, this is an important role for school districts to carry out. The greatest failure of school districts around the country is inadequate screening of teachers and administrators or other employees before someone is hired. Screening of educational credentials for teachers is very common at a job interview. Seldom do school districts require psychiatric evaluation prior to someone being hired. This applies to coaching positions as well. Because of this lack of critical screening, sexual predators can find their way into the classroom.

Too many times in the last two decades students have had to endure the unwanted sexual advances of predatory teachers and administrators. Often these predators seek out their victims by going into professions where they can control and dominate their victims. These ready-made work environments include, but are not limited to, professions like teaching, nursing, or the military.

Positions where they can administer corporal punishment to students may also be linked to sexual predation as well, as mentioned above. Hitting and physically harming children in an institutional setting is as much to blame for the United States’ serious problem of child abuse as a parent is with inferior parenting skills. (See definition in Part II of what constitutes physical child abuse). Several states, including some among the 20 that allow it, have entered the names for life of individual teachers and administrators who commit corporal punishment onto their state’s Child Abuse Registry.

Post Script

Well, there are many factors collectively and individually that may be responsible for why corporal punishment still exists in these backward 20 states: (1) the possession of deviant cultural values, (2) a social history of racism and the need to dominate others, (3) lack of professionalism among the educational staff, or simply professional incompetence by failing to read and understand their own profession’s accumulated knowledge about successful student/teacher interaction and good teaching methods, and (4) teachers and administrators who derive pleasure hurting children and may derive sexual satisfaction or be sexually stimulated from hurting children (sadistic impulses). These latter individuals don’t deserve to be employed anywhere, much less in a profession as important as teaching our children. Finally, the surrounding local community or culture may possess or foster bible-belt religious philosophies that are repugnant to a modern culturally mature larger society.

Even in the 21st Century these backward pockets of extreme conservatism often culturally mask an underlying political outlook that is hidden, yet fraught with a lingering veil of racism and deviant values that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of all other Americans. Such a veil still continues to bring lasting shame to these areas of the country.

In Part IV I will report on what is known about the crime of kidnapping children. In addition, a full set of recommendations will be made to address Sex Trafficking, Bullying, and Corporal Punishment in the schools. Where school districts that promote corporal punishment is concerned I am seriously thinking the federal government must eliminate any federal economic help to school districts that promote corporal punishment in the schools. On the other hand, schools districts that ban corporal punishment would receive additional economic support. Teachers and administrators who continue to hurt students will also face arrest and criminal indictment by federal authorities.

If any infant is attacked and brutalized by an adult, law enforcement would be all over the offender lake a “Fly on do-do.” If an adult is attacked on the street and physically harmed, law enforcement will seek out and arrest the offender. When a teacher or administrator beats a child the only difference is a person’s age (school age children). But the behavioral outcome is the same—someone is getting hurt. Very young and adults are protected by the law; school age children don’t seem to be in certain parts of the country. It’s long overdue for such hypocrisy to end. It’s time for the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to apply to all citizens, old and young alike.

 

HRW/ACLU NOTES

 

[1] During the 2006-2007 school year, at least 223,190 students in the U.S. were subjected to corporal punishment.  See U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Civil Rights Data Collection 2006, http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Projections_2006.aspx (last accessed April 1, 2010) [hereinafter Civil Rights Data Collection].

[2] Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas,  Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. See American Civil Liberties Union & Human Rights Watch, Impairing Education 27 (2009), available at http://www.aclu.org/human-rights/impairing-education-corporal-punishment-students-disabilities-us-public-schools   [hereinafter Impairing Education].

[3] Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee & Texas. See id. at 27.

[4] Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. See id, at 27.

[5] Many school districts may fail to report corporal punishment data to the Department of Education, and many incidents may not be recorded in the first place. See American Civil Liberties Union & Human Rights Watch, A Violent Education 45-46 (2008), available at http://www.aclu.org/human-rights-racial-justice/violent-education-corporal-punishment-children-us-public-schools [hereinafter A Violent Education]; Impairing Education, at 30-31.

[6] See generally A Violent Education, at 57; Impairing Education, at 4-5.

[7] Corporal punishment of children in juvenile justice facilities has been prohibited by the Courts of Appeals in several Federal Circuits.  See Nelson v. Heyne, 491 F.2d 352 (7th Cir. 1974), cert. denied 417 U.S. 476 (paddling of children in juvenile detention was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment); Morales v. Turman, 562 F.2d 993, 998 (5th Cir. 1977) (corporal punishment and physical abuse in juvenile detention facilities subject to prohibition as a violation of Eighth Amendment), rev’d on other grounds, 535 F.2d 864 (5th Cir. 1976), rev’d and remanded, 430 U.S. 322 (1977).  See also, Santana v. Collazo, 533 F. Supp. 966 (D.P.R. 1982) (corporal punishment against juveniles in industrial schools and juvenile camps violates Eighth Amendment and is barred “for any reason”), aff’d in part and vacated in part, 714 F.2d 1172 (lst Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 974 (1984).  The American Correctional Association has also issued standards banning use of corporal punishment in juvenile facilities. See also Steven J. Martin, Staff Use of Force in United States Confinement Settings, 22 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol’y 145 (2006).  In addition, corporal punishment and other harsh disciplinary practices are prohibited in publicly-funded non-medical substance abuse and long-term medical care facilities.  See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 290jj (banning corporal punishment in “non-medical community-based facilities for children and youth.”); 42 C.F.R. § 483.13 (banning corporal punishment in long-term medical care facilities).

[8] Civil Rights Data Collection, supra note 1. See also A Violent Education, at 5 (“In the same year [2006-2007], in the 13 states with the highest rates of paddling, 1.4 times as many African American students were paddled as might be expected given their percentage of the student population. Although girls of all races were paddled less than boys, African American girls were nonetheless physically punished at more than twice the rate of their white counterparts in those 13 states during this period”).

[9] A Violent Education, at 72 (interview with Abrea T., Dec. 10, 2007).

[10] A Violent Education, at 75-76 (interview with Catherine V., Nov. 7, 2007).

[11] In the 2006-2007 school year, 41,972 students with disabilities were subjected to corporal punishment during the 2006-2007 school year. See Civil Rights Data Collection, supra note 1.

[12] See Impairing Education, at 35-40.

[13] Impairing Education, at 44 (interview with Sarah P.  May 22, 2009).

[14] Impairing Education, at 43 (interview with Anna M., March 9, 2009).

[15] See A Violent Education, at 75.

[16] Michael Hickmon, Study: Paddling vs. ACT Scores and Civil Immunity Legislation (2008), available at http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=paddlingvsact.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] See A Violent Education, at 54; Impairing Education, at 42-43.

[20] See A Violent Education, at 54; Impairing Education, at 43-44.

[21] Society for Adolescent Medicine, Position Paper: Corporal Punishment in Schools, 32:5 J. Adolescent Health 385, 388 (2003).

[22] A Violent Education, at 55 (interview with Sean D., Dec. 14, 2007).

[23] See Impairing Education, at 6.

[24] See id. at 5.

[25] See A Violent Education, at 25-29.

[26]  This is often because students who have been subjected to corporal punishment have learned through their experiences that physical violence is an appropriate way to handle conflict. The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted that “corporal punishment may adversely affect a student’s self-image and school achievement and it may contribute to disruptive and violent behavior.” American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on School Health, Corporal Punishment in Schools, 106:2 Pediatrics 343 (2000), available at http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;106/2/343.

[27] See, e.g., Stephen P. Safran & Karen Oswald, Positive Behavior Supports: Can Schools Reshape Disciplinary Practices?, 69:3 Exceptional Child. 361 (2003), available at http://www.casenex.com/casenex/cecReadings/positiveBehavior.pdf.

 

 

 

 

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Taking Aim at Violence against Children—Part II Child Abuse

 [Research and National Statistics on Child Abuse]

Introduction

In Part I of this series I emphasized the need for a much broader contextual look at violence perpetrated against children in the United States.

Gun violence has certainly captured everyone’s attention since the cold blooded mass murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Nevertheless, there still exists a dire need to protect children beyond mass murder. We, as individuals, need to crystalize in our own mind two things: (1) Understanding the comprehensive nature of all violence toward children, and (2) What is needed in the way of recommendations, legislative proposals, and/or policy directives that would effectively address the widespread problem of violence directed against children.  During the course of this four part series both of these things will be laid out.

Child Abuse in America

Summary Statistics

In the United States children are suffering from an epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving nearly 6 million children (a report can include multiple children). The United States has the worst record among industrialized nations – losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths.

The following data were obtained from two sources: Child Help which has programs for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse, and NCANDS which refers to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Child Help is a private program with a Child Abuse Hotline. NCANDS is a federally sponsored effort that collects and analyzes annual data on child abuse and neglect. The 1988 CAPTA amendments directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a national data collection and analysis program. The Children’s Bureau in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, collects and analyzes the data. In addition research findings from various studies will be presented.

The data are submitted voluntarily by the States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The first report from NCANDS was based on data for 1990; this report for Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2011 data is the 22nd issuance of this annual publication.

 Here are crucial national facts on child abuse in America:

  • A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.
  • More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.
  • Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.
  • It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
  • More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
  • Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
  • About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
  • About 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
  • The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2008 was $124 billion.
  • 14% of all men in prison in the USA were abused as children.
  • 36% of all women in prison were abused as children.
  • Children who experience child abuse & neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime.  Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
  • Abused teens are less likely to practice safe sex that puts them at greater risk for STDs.
  • One-third to two-thirds of child maltreatment cases involve substance use to some degree.
  • Children whose parent’s abuse alcohol and other drugs are three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusing families.
  • As many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children.

Definitions of Child Abuse  

     Child Abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment or neglect of a child or children. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department for Children and Families (DCF) define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.

Child abuse can occur in a child’s home, or organizations, schools or communities the child interacts with. There are four major categories of child abuse:  physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, and neglect.

Different jurisdictions have developed their own definitions of what constitutes child abuse for the purposes of removing a child from his/her family and/or prosecuting a criminal charge. According to the Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, child abuse is “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm”.

Types of Child Abuse

     Physical abuse involves physical aggression directed at a child by an adult. Most nations with child-abuse laws consider the deliberate infliction of serious injuries, or actions that place the child at obvious risk of serious injury or death, to be illegal. Physical abuse is the intentional or non-accidental production of a physical injury. Bruises, scratches, burns, broken bones, lacerations, as well as repeated “mishaps,” and rough treatment that could cause physical injury, are the results of physical abuse. Beyond this, there is considerable variation.

Discipline and Child Abuse

The distinction between child discipline and child abuse is often poorly defined. Cultural norms about what constitutes abuse vary widely: among professionals as well as the wider public.  People do not agree on what behaviors constitute abuse. Some professionals claim that cultural norms that sanction physical punishment are one of the causes of child abuse, and have undertaken campaigns to redefine such norms. The misguided belief that physical punishment does not have consequences for children later in life is naïve. Both the physical health and psychological health of a child who is physically punished does have detrimental consequences later in that child’s life. Research has overwhelmingly proven this. Lack of knowledge about the short and long term effects of physical punishment on the child, but also knowledge how to raise a healthy and psychologically happy child, is little understood by the public at large.

It’s important here to take note of a common defense mechanism known as sublimation. What is the relationship between sublimation and child abuse? If one is really angry at a child sublimation can redirect those feelings (perhaps stress generated) into more acceptable ways of acting toward that child. By definition, Sublimation is a defense mechanism that allows us to act out unacceptable impulses by converting these behaviors into a more acceptable form. For example, a person experiencing extreme anger might take up kick-boxing as a means of venting frustration. Freud believed that sublimation was a sign of maturity that allows people to function normally in socially acceptable ways.

     Where child abuse is concerned there may not be any sublimation that prevents the unacceptable acting out of impulses. However, failure to control one’s own negative impulses may come back later to haunt the abuser.

Revenge and violence by the child directed toward the abuser might take years to be revealed. The old expression “what goes around comes around” may have real consequences for the abuser later in life. Sometimes the abused child doesn’t wait; sometimes an angry child will set fire to a home killing both his/her parents and others in the process. If revenge is delayed, it may manifest itself when the abuser is at that stage of life when they become elderly and need care, and/or medical attention. And then, those needs are left unmet by the child abuse victim. Unfortunately, child abuse victims often become abusers themselves later in life. It can become a vicious cycle for both abuser and victim. 

     Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent abuses a child for sexual stimulation. Sexual abuse refers to the participation of a child in a sexual act aimed toward the physical gratification or the financial profit of the person committing the act.

Forms of CSA include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure of the genitals to a child, displaying pornography to a child, actual sexual contact with a child, physical contact with the child’s genitals, viewing of the child’s genitalia without physical contact, or using a child to produce child pornography. Selling the sexual services of children is also sexual child abuse.

Effects of child sexual abuse include guilt and self-blame, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, fear of things associated with the abuse (including objects, smells, places, doctor’s visits, etc.), self-esteem issues, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, addiction, self-injury, suicidal ideation, somatic complaints, depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety and other mental illnesses including borderline personality disorder and dissociative identity disorder, propensity to re-victimization in adulthood, bulimia nervosa, physical injury to the child, among other problems.

In the United States, approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children. Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, mothers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbors; strangers are the offenders in approximately10% of child sexual abuse cases. In over one-third of cases, the perpetrator is also a minor.

In a 1999 news story, BBC reported, “Close-knit family life in India masks an alarming amount of sexual abuse of children and teenage girls by family members, a new report suggests. Delhi organization RAHI said 76% of respondents to its survey had been abused when they were children – 40% of those by a family member.”

     Emotional abuse is defined as the production of psychological and social deficits in the growth of a child as a result of behavior such as loud yelling, coarse and rude attitude, inattention, harsh criticism, and denigration of the child’s personality. Other examples include name-calling, ridicule, degradation, destruction of personal belongings, torture or killing of a pet, excessive criticism, inappropriate or excessive demands, withholding communication, and routine labeling or humiliation.

Victims of emotional abuse may react by distancing themselves from the abuser, internalizing the abusive words, or fighting back by insulting the abuser. Emotional abuse can result in abnormal or disrupted attachment development, a tendency for victims to blame themselves (self-blame) for the abuse, learned helplessness, and overly passive behavior.

     Child neglect is the failure of a parent, or other person with responsibility for the child, to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm. Neglect is also a lack of attention from the people surrounding a child, and the non-provision of relevant and adequate necessities for the child’s survival, which would be a lacking in attention, love, and nurture. Some of the observable signs in a neglected child include: the child is frequently absent from school, begs or steals food or money, lacks needed medical and dental care, is consistently dirty, lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.

Neglected children may experience delays in physical and psychosocial development, possibly resulting in psychopathology and impaired neurological functions such as a short attention span, mental processing speed, language development, memory and those all-important social skills.

Researchers investigating maltreated children have repeatedly found that neglected children in foster and adoptive populations manifest different emotional and behavioral reactions to regain lost or secure relationships and are frequently reported to have disorganized attachments and a need to control their environment. Such children are not likely to view caregivers as being a source of safety, and instead typically show an increase in aggressive and hyperactive behaviors which may disrupt healthy or secure attachment with their adopted parents.

These children have apparently learned to adapt to an abusive and inconsistent caregiver by becoming cautiously self-reliant, and are often described as glib, manipulative and disingenuous in their interactions with others as they move through childhood. Children who are victims of neglect have a more difficult time forming and maintaining relationships, such as romantic attachments or friendship later in life due to the lack of attachment they had in their earlier stages of life.

Prevalence

According to the (American) National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, in 1997 neglect represented 54% of confirmed cases of child abuse, physical abuse 22%, sexual abuse 8%, emotional maltreatment 4%, and other forms of maltreatment 12%.

A UNICEP report on child wellbeing stated that the United States and the United Kingdom ranked lowest among industrial nations with respect to the wellbeing of children. It also found that child neglect and child abuse were far more common in single-parent families than in families where both parents are present.

In the USA, neglect is defined as the failure to meet the basic needs of children including housing, clothing, food and access to medical care. Researchers found over 91,000 cases of neglect in one year (from October 2005 to 30 September 2006) using information from a database of cases verified by protective services agencies.

Neglect could also take the form of financial abuse by not buying the child adequate materials for survival.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that for each year between 2000 and 2005, “female parents acting alone” were most likely to be perpetrators of child abuse.

For FFY 2011, United States reported 676,569 victims of child abuse and neglect. Race and ethnicity of victims in 2011: 43.9% of all victims were Caucasian, 21.5% were African American, and 22.1% were Hispanic.

A child abuse fatality occurs when a child’s death is the result of abuse or neglect, or when abuse and/or neglect are contributing factors to a child’s death. In the United States, 1,730 children died in 2008 due to factors related to abuse; this is a rate of 2 per 100,000 U.S. children. Family situations which place children at risk include moving, unemployment, having non-family members living in the household. A number of policies and programs have been put in place in the U.S. to try to better understand and to prevent child abuse fatalities, including:

Safe Haven Laws

Child Fatality Review Teams

Training for Investigators

Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Programs

Child Abuse Death Laws Mandating Harsher Sentencing

Causes

Child abuse is a complex phenomenon with multiple causes. Understanding the causes of abuse is crucial to addressing the problem of child abuse. Parents who physically abuse their spouses are more likely than others to physically abuse their children. However, it is impossible to know whether marital strife is a cause of child abuse, or if both the marital strife and the abuse are caused by tendencies in the abuser.

Another cause is unrealistic expectations in parenting or caregiving. This commonly used term refers to the process of parents’ setting expectations for their child that are clearly beyond the child’s capability. When parents’ expectations are particularly deviant (e.g., preschool children who are expected to be totally responsible for self-care or provision of nurturance to parents) the resulting frustration caused by the child’s non-compliance is believed to function as a contributory cause of child abuse.

Children resulting from unintended pregnancies are also more likely to be abused or neglected. Neglect following an unintended pregnancy is by far the most common form of child abuse, accounting for more than 78% of all cases. In addition, unintended pregnancies are more likely than intended pregnancies to be associated with abusive relationships, and there is an increased risk of physical violence during pregnancy. They also result in poorer maternal mental health, and lower mother-child relationship quality.

Substance abuse can be a major contributing factor to child abuse. One U.S. study found that parents with documented substance abuse, most commonly alcohol, cocaine, and heroin, were much more likely to mistreat their children, and were also much more likely to reject court-ordered services and treatments. Another study found that over two-thirds of cases of child maltreatment involved parents with substance abuse problems. This study specifically found relationships between alcohol and physical abuse, and between cocaine and sexual abuse. Although the abuse survivor does not always realize the abuse is wrong, the internal confusion can lead to chaos. Inner anger turns to outer frustration. Once aged 17/18, drink and drugs are used to numb the hurt feelings, nightmares and daytime flashbacks. Acquisitive crimes to pay for the chemicals are inevitable if the survivor is unable to find employment.

Unemployment and financial difficulties are associated with increased rates of child abuse. In 2009 CBS News reported that child abuse in the United States had increased during the economic recession. It gave the example of a father who had never been the primary care-taker of the children. Now that the father was in that role, the children began to come in with injuries.

A 1988 study of child murders in the US found that children are 100 times more often killed by a “non-biological parent (e.g. step-parent, a cohabitating boyfriend or girlfriend of a biological parent)” than by a biological parent. An evolutionary explanation of this is that using resources in order to take care of another person’s biological child is likely not a good strategy for increasing reproductive success. More generally, stepchildren have a much higher risk of being abused which is sometimes referred to as the Cinderella effect.

The Cinderella Effect is often regarded as one of the great successes of Evolutionary Psychology research. It attempts to explain the observation that parents are more likely to kill their stepchildren than their biological children using evolutionary logic – as described by Daly and Wilson: “research concerning animal social behavior provide a rationale for expecting parents to be discriminative in their care and affection, and more specifically, to discriminate in favor of their own young”.

Psychologists conducted a study in the United States in 2010 which examined over 200 regular church attendees from eleven different denominations of Christianity, most of whom were educated upper-middle class Caucasian Americans. In their study they found that extrinsic religious orientation was associated with a greater risk of physical child abuse. Those with a more extrinsic religious orientation who also adhered to greater social conformity were particularly more likely to share characteristics with physically abusive subjects.

Subjects who adhered to Biblical literalism exhibited a higher potential of physical child abuse. Those who had a more intrinsic religious orientation were not found to be at a greater risk of child abuse, although they sometimes exhibited greater social conformity or a greater propensity for holding literal interpretations of the Bible. Approximately 85% of the study’s subjects were parents.

Long Term Health and Psychiatric Effects of Child Abuse

There are strong associations between exposure to child abuse in all its forms and higher rates of many chronic conditions. In the United States, the strongest evidence comes from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) series of studies which show correlations between exposure to abuse or neglect and higher rates in adulthood of chronic conditions, high-risk health behaviors and shortened lifespan. A recent publication, Hidden Costs in Health Care: The Economic Impact of Violence and Abuse, makes the case that such exposure represents a serious and costly public-health issue that should be addressed by the healthcare system.

A big concern with researchers is the degree to which maltreated children grow up to be maltreating adults, or if they exhibit social signs of abuse or neglect. Studies show that 90 percent of maltreating adults were maltreated as children in their life. When children were two, studies show that 16 percent of 267 high-risk mothers mistreated their own children, to different effects. The first two years of a child’s life is when parents invest the least in their children. Almost 7 million American infants go to child care services, like day care, and a majority of that care is poor.

Serious consequences occur when young children are maltreated, including developmental issues. Sixteen percent of those 267 high risk mothers mistreat their two year old children in different ways. Fifty-five percent of the children experienced physical abuse, 55 percent experienced neglect, 43 percent experienced hostile and rejecting parenting, and 43 percent experienced unavailable parenting.

Children who have a history of neglect or physical abuse are at risk of developing psychiatric problems or a disorganized attachment style. Disorganized attachment is associated with a number of developmental problems, including dissociative symptoms, as well as anxiety, depression, and acting out symptoms. A study by Dante Cicchetti found that 80% of abused and maltreated infants exhibited symptoms of disorganized attachment.

When some of these children become parents, especially if they suffer from posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), dissociative symptoms, and other aspects of child abuse, they may encounter difficulty when faced with their infant and young children’s needs and normative distress, which may in turn lead to adverse consequences for their child’s social-emotional development. Despite these potential difficulties, psychosocial intervention can be effective, at least in some cases, in changing the ways maltreated parents think about their young children.

Long Term Effects of Corporal Punishment

In a study by Murray A. Straus et al titled Spanking by Parents and Subsequent Antisocial Behavior of Children (Archives Pediatric Adolescent Medicine. 1997; 151(8): 761-767) researchers studied the causal relationship between corporal punishment and antisocial behavior (ASB) by considering the level of ASB of the child at the start of the study. Data from interviews were obtained with a national sample of 807 mothers of children aged 6 to 9 years in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Child Supplement.

Analysis of variance was used to test the hypothesis that when parents use corporal punishment to correct ASB, it increases subsequent ASB. The analysis controlled for the level of ASB at the start of the study, family socioeconomic status, sex of the child, and the extent to which the home provided emotional support and cognitive stimulation.

The results of their study showed that forty-four percent of the mothers reported spanking their children during the week prior to the study and they spanked them an average of 2.1 times that week. It turned out that the more spanking at the start of the period, the higher the level of ASB 2 years later. The change is unlikely to be owing to the child’s tendency toward ASB or to confounding with demographic characteristics or with parental deficiency in other key aspects of socialization because those variables were statistically controlled.

The researchers concluded that when parents use corporal punishment to reduce ASB, the long-term effect tends to be just the opposite. The findings suggest that if parents replace corporal punishment by nonviolent modes of discipline, it could reduce the risk of ASB among children and reduce the level of violence in American society.

Researchers continue to look at the long-term effect of spanking in childhood. A new report in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests it can have far reaching effects on a person’s mental health as they age. A new study by psychologist Sheyda Melkonian suggests parents think hard before using any physical form of discipline. The punishments in question include spanking, hitting and slapping. Study authors say 7 percent of adult disorders can be linked to harsh punishment in childhood. These disorders include depression, mania, anxiety disorders and alcohol and drug abuse.

“If every time you mess up, you do something wrong, the consequence is you’re physically being hit, there’s always a fear around messing up.” Melkonian also cites other studies that show spanking leads to children with a lower IQ, and that even mild hand slapping will lead to toddlers less willing to explore their world.

“Spanking is one of those experiences that I feel like once it’s done, it changes the parent-child relationship forever because that parent stops being the person that is loving and caring, and it becomes someone that they are afraid of to some degree,” Melkonian said.

Physical Health Problems Later in Life

Victims of childhood abuse, it is claimed, also suffer from different types of physical health problems later in life. Some reportedly suffer from some type of chronic head, abdominal, pelvic, or muscular pain with no identifiable reason. Even though the majority of childhood abuse victims know or believe that their abuse is, or can be, the cause of different health problems in their adult life, for the great majority their abuse was not directly associated with those problems, indicating that sufferers were most likely diagnosed with other possible causes for their health problems, instead of their childhood abuse.

One long-term study found that up to 80% of abused people had at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21, with problems including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts. One Canadian hospital found that between 36% and 76% of women mental health outpatients had been abused, as had 58% of women and 23% of men schizophrenic inpatients.

Other abuse effects can come early in life or later: Significant would be: Shaking a baby is a common form of child abuse that often results in permanent neurological damage (80% of cases) or death (30% of cases). Damage results from intracranial hypertension (increased pressure in the skull) after bleeding in the brain, damage to the spinal cord and neck, and rib or bone fractures (Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2007).

There also can be impaired brain development. Child abuse and neglect have been shown, in some cases, to cause important regions of the brain to fail to form or grow properly, resulting in impaired development (De Bellis & Thomas, 2003). These alterations in brain maturation have long-term consequences for cognitive, language, and academic abilities (Watts-English, Fortson, Gibler, Hooper, & De Bellis, 2006).

The NSCAW found more than three-quarters of foster children between 1 and 2 years of age to be at medium to high risk for problems with brain development, as opposed to less than half of children in a control sample (ACF/OPRE, 2004a).

There is also poor physical health. Several studies have shown a relationship between various forms of household dysfunction (including childhood abuse) and poor health (Flaherty et al., 2006; Felitti, 2002). Adults who experienced abuse or neglect during childhood are more likely to suffer from physical ailments such as allergies, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, high blood pressure, and ulcers (Springer, Sheridan, Kuo, & Carnes, 2007). Children who are physically abused are likely to receive bone fractures, particularly rib fractures, and may have a higher risk of developing cancer. Children who experience child abuse & neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as juveniles, 28% more likely to be arrested as adults, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime.

On the other hand, there are some children who are raised in child abuse, but who manage to do unexpectedly well later in life regarding the preconditions. Such children have been termed dandelion children, as inspired from the way that dandelions seem to prosper irrespective of soil, sun, drought, or rain. Such children (or currently grown-ups) are of high interest in finding factors that mitigate the effects of child abuse. In the criminal justice research world children or teens who should have become delinquent or criminals (but who subsequently did not) were called the “invulnerables .” Future research should try to find out what it is about these children or teens that makes them avoid the long term negative effects of abuse, neglect, and/or a social environment conducive to criminal behavior. This area of research has great potential.

A study reported in the American Journal of Public Health v.93(7), 2003 found that there was an association between Childhood Physical Abuse and Gastrointestinal Disorders and Migraine in Adulthood. They examined the association between childhood physical abuse and the odds of gastrointestinal disorders and migraine headache among adults in the community. They hypothesized that childhood physical abuse would be associated with increased odds of gastrointestinal disorders and migraine headache during adulthood, and that this association would be independent of comorbid mental disorders. There were limitations in this study (uncontrolled confounding of variables) but the results were reported that childhood physical abuse was reported by 381 (15.8%) of the 3032 respondents, with 74 (3.1%) reporting frequent abuse. Individuals who reported experiencing childhood abuse were significantly younger, more likely to be of minority racial status, and more likely to have current mental disorders than those who did not report abuse. Frequent abuse was associated with decreased odds of being married. A higher percentage of men than women reported any abuse, and a higher percentage of women than men reported frequent abuse.

When it came to gastrointestinal disorders and migraines they found, “Any childhood abuse was associated with a significantly increased odds ratio (OR) for recurring stomach problems (OR = 1.7; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.2, 2.4), and frequent childhood abuse was associated with a significantly increased likelihood of recurring stomach problems (OR = 3.5; 95% CI = 1.9, 6.4), migraine (OR = 2.7; 95% CI = 1.2, 5.8), and ulcer (OR = 4.2; 95% CI = 1.8, 10.0), which remained statistically significant after adjusting for social and demographic characteristics and mental disorders. These data provide initial evidence of an association between childhood physical abuse and increased odds of gastrointestinal problems and migraine headaches among adults in the general population.

Post Script

All behavior has consequences. When parents or strangers hit and/or hurt children it is violence that must be stopped, and carry the full brunt of the law. In the United States there is widespread ignorance in many areas of social life and interaction. Child abuse is one such area. Nevertheless, it has long been said that ignorance of the law is no excuse and neither is parental or caretaker incompetence. It is not enough for society to recognize that far too many in our adult population lack social parenting skills and may have mental disorders or drug addictions of their own. Society must act, and act now, with the same motivational effort as shown by the President and some members of Congress toward the issue of gun violence.

Cultural norms are changing all the time. Just as there’s been recognition that violence perpetrated against women is no longer acceptable under any circumstance, soon the drumbeat to no longer accept child abuse will be heard. The long term medical, psychiatric and criminal justice costs, as a result of child abuse and neglect, are staggering to our economy. These staggering economic costs are likely passed on to you—the taxpayer.

All of you concerned about unemployment, our rising national debt, the high cost of food, gasoline, and healthcare, need to understand how important it really is to prevent child abuse and neglect in this country. Why? Because, you are ultimately going to pay the huge costs for the harm that is done to children, either in its short term or long-term effects.

 

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Taking Aim at Violence against Children—Part I

Gun Violence

[The Importance of a Broader Contextual Viewpoint]

 

Introduction

I am initiating a four part series on the subject of violence perpetrated against children. This will occur from February through May 2013 and will involve a broad and extensive contextual look at violence against children. Adulthood can be difficult for anyone. But children making that journey between infancy and adulthood do not make their journey possessing all the physical, mental and emotional resources to cope with all the potential sources of violence in their environment.

Children need love and support and protection as they attempt to navigate through the sometimes troubled waters of growing up. Above all, they need a safe caring environment while they grow and develop skills, and develop that all-important personality characteristic—self-esteem.

Are we as a society serious about loving and protecting all our children? If we are, we need to confront head on, not just the evil of mass murder, but all individual and institutionalized violence committed against children. Why should society take such a comprehensive approach to all sources of violence against children? It appears childhood victimization is very widespread in this country. This highlighted statement above will be supported with research data and statistics during the course of the four part series.

Contextual Approach to Evaluating Violence

All human behavior is neutral until someone attaches social meaning to the actions of individuals or groups. I have always found the contextual nature of behavior very thought-provoking and interesting from a social scientist’s point of view. Said another way, my sociological imagination is on full throttle whenever I detect some inconsistency between a person’s values or beliefs (beliefs, particularly cherished beliefs, are really cherished values) on the one hand, and their actual behavior on the other.

Nowhere is this more evident than with current efforts to deal with gun violence in the nation’s schools. People have jumped to deal with only one type of violence; a much more comprehensive approach would be to pursue and confront all sources of violence toward children, not just mass murder. When the smoke finally clears on the President’s plan to stem gun violence, I recommend the President and the Congress promote a more comprehensive approach to stemming violence in society, with special attention to preventing violence against children.

Don’t get me wrong. I admire President Barack Obama for his politically courageous efforts to deal with gun violence and the NRA gun lobby following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The decisions being made now have reached a boiling point in light of the culmination of other horrific previous tragedies such as Columbine, a theater in Aurora Colorado, Virginia Tech, and many other locations where mass murder has occurred. But, it is really important in the future to take a more comprehensive and contextual approach to preventing violence toward children.

Complexity of Violence

Violence in society is a complicated subject to address because it depends upon the variegated contextual nature in differing social setting in which it occurs. Sometimes violence as human behavior can be identical from social setting to social setting, yet the meaning one attaches to the same behavior (be it positive, negative, or neutral) can vary significantly.

We all possess values that conflict with one another. Differing value judgments within the same individual can often create as much conflict as differing value judgments between individuals. In addition, when there is a major inconsistency between one’s behavior and one’s beliefs, psychologists have a name for that—it’s called Cognitive Dissonance.

For example, many people believe in the sanctity of life, yet will take life in a combat zone. Or a parent will try to” teach” a child not to hit others (how utterly dumb is this?) by in turn hitting the child. Inconsistency between one’s beliefs or values and one’s behavior can surface when someone believes smoking is bad for one’s health and longevity, but lights up anyway.

Or, someone can get on another’s case for stealing, but have no conscience when cheating or lying about one’s own tax return. Or, many people profess to care about violence toward children, but fail to really explore or deal with all sources of violence in their own child’s environment. An example of this is the parent who knowingly stands by while the other parent sexually or physically abuses a child. Personally, from a psychological point of view, I see much cognitive dissonance in individuals as emanating from a highly egocentric personality. Even when inconsistency is recognized by the individual, psychological defense mechanisms come into play to engage in denial of reality.

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND OTHER INTERNAL DIFFERENCES IN OUR OWN PERSPECTIVE ARE OFTEN A TELLING MARK OF HYPOCRISY, OVER-ACTIVE DEFENSE MECHANISMS, LACK OF INTELLECTUAL PERSPECTIVE, LACK OF PERSONAL COURAGE, AND/OR CONFUSION.   

 

Background

Before getting underway with this series, readers need to understand two things: (1) this author’s approach to classifying violence, and (2) the definition of violence and torture.

Classifying Violence

     All violence can be classified into two basic types: Individual or small group violence and institutionalized violence. Individual or small group violence would include, of course, individuals acting alone. But the definition would also include the actions of small groups of individuals such as gangs, or the spontaneous actions of loosely-constructed mobs where individuals may not even know each other.

Then, there is institutionalized violence. These are violent acts sanctioned by larger social institutional entities such as schools, criminal organizations such as the Mafia, or small, medium or large organizations (like the CIA) within a government (democratic or otherwise). Even entire countries can sanction violence, as in wartime. Violence is an individual and culturally-generated behavior that manifests itself with very little restraint, and is all-to-common everywhere in the world.

Definition of Violence and Torture

     Violence can be of either short or long duration. Therefore, it is necessary to define torture although sometimes these words are interrelated and not necessarily mutually exclusive (torture is violence, but not all violence involves torture). Thus, there is a need to define torture as well. Torture (even as a rationalization of the Bush Administration for homeland security) is nevertheless a criminal act, and a violation of human rights and prohibited in law by four international Geneva Conventions going back to the early part of the Twentieth Century.

Here is the definition of each term: Violence is behavior involving physical, mental, or emotional harm or psychological duress in order to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. It is also the strength of emotion generated from an unpleasant or destructive natural force. Torture is the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment, or in order to force someone to do or say something.

Sources of Violence toward Children

During a child’s formative years children can be  victimized in a variety of ways including: gun violence such as drive-by shootings, homicide and school shootings, physical child abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, sibling abuse, criminal acts such as assault and battery by strangers, being drawn into the drug addiction world and victimized, sex trafficking, kidnapping, bullying,  corporal punishment in schools (20 states still sanction acts of violence hurting children that they euphemistically rationalize as discipline), and finally—mass murder, the ultimate victimization.

Huge Social Changes Are Coming

In light of the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut there has been a very much needed response to the events that occurred there. Consequently, President Barack Obama took the reins of leadership and took quick action to develop a viable plan to stem gun violence in this country.

I feel that given the public’s support for gun control, and the public’s emotional reaction to what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the timing is right for expanding our efforts to prevent all violence directed against children. But, as a society, we really do need, as the old cliché says, to think outside the box. Our way of solving problems at every governmental level in this country is, all-too-often, fragmented.

Nowhere is this more evident than where violence and children are concerned. For society to address doing a better job of protecting children—social change must be embraced if the goal of preventing all violence against children is to ever become a reality.

However, as one can easily see, the real dangers that can potentially victimize children include more than the tragedies fostered by mass murder. Therefore, an opportunity now presents itself to explore and recommend, at every level of government, policy and legislative proposals to seriously confront all the real dangers children may confront as they make that journey from infancy to adulthood.

Focus of Part I

Part I will report on the President’s current plan to address the issue of gun violence. It must be pointed out this series is oriented toward protecting children. Nevertheless, the implications of a viably enacted set of laws and executive decisions to gain better and more effective control of guns affects everyone from the ordinary citizen to the most violent of criminal offenders.

Gun Violence

The Research Issue on Gun Violence

It has been reported that President Barack Obama lifted a 17-year ban on U.S. funding for research on gun violence, instructing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to step up its support for such work. But his request for Congress to approve $10 million for research on several aspects of violence prevention—including a look at the effects of video games and media images—could face stiff resistance among advocates of gun ownership.

Lifting the ban is one of 23 new actions, including a series of legislative proposals, to curb gun violence that the White House announced in the wake of last month’s shooting of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Among other goals, the president said he aims to require a “universal background check” for everyone buying a gun (about 40% of gun sales are not covered now), a prohibition on the sale of “military-style assault weapons,” a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets, and a push for better mental health care.

CDC’s funding of research on gun violence peaked at about $2.6 million in 1996. The results included findings such as the observation that homicides are significantly more likely to occur in households where a gun is kept. The NRA gun lobby pressured Congress to stop this line of inquiry, and in the mid-1990s legislators issued a series of advisory messages and some legal restrictions on agency actions.

Today’s news is “a terrific development,” says Jens Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago research center known as the Crime Lab. Ludwig is a co-author of a letter signed by more than 100 academics that calls for an end to the ban on gun violence research. In an e-mail to Science Insider, he says, “Without support for data and research in this area, it is very difficult to know which policy changes are most likely to generate net improvements in public safety that can justify the costs involved.”

A Few Facts You Should Know

Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings across the country. The killings took place all over the country from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Twenty-four of these mass shootings took place since 2006. In 2012 alone there were seven mass shootings. Below is a chronology that details mass shootings that have occurred between April 1999 (Columbine) and December 14, 2012 (Newtown, Connecticut).

Dozens of mass killings have occurred in the United States since two teenagers went on a rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in April of 1999, killing 12 of their fellow students and a teacher. The deadly school shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school on Friday, December 14, 2012 was the latest in a series of shooting crimes in the United States.

The following is a detailed list of mass killings in the United States since Columbine compiled by Telegraph, Reuters, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.



April 1999
– two teenage schoolboys shot and killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, before killing themselves.

July 1999 – a stock exchange trader in Atlanta, Georgia, killed 12 people including his wife and two children before taking his own life.

September 1999 – a gunman opened fire at a prayer service in Fort Worth, Texas, killing six people before committing suicide.

October 2002 – a series of sniper-style shootings occurred in Washington DC, leaving 10 dead.

August 2003 – in Chicago, a laid-off worker shot and killed six of his former workmates.

November 2004 – [There is perhaps great irony where Second Amendment Rights are concerned when this happened]. In Birchwood, Wisconsin, a hunter killed six other hunters and wounded two others after an argument with them.

March 2005 – a man opened fire at a church service in Brookfield, Wisconsin, killing seven people.

October 2006 – a truck driver killed five schoolgirls and seriously wounded six others in a school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania before taking his own life.

April 2007 – student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 15 others at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, before shooting himself, making it the deadliest mass shooting in the United States after 2000.

August 2007 – Three Delaware State University students were shot and killed in “execution style” by a 28-year-old and two 15-year-old boys. A fourth student was shot and stabbed.

December 2007 – a 20-year-old man killed nine people and injured five others in a shopping center in Omaha, Nebraska.

December 2007 –
a woman and her boyfriend shot dead six members of her family on Christmas Eve in Carnation, Washington.

February 2008 – a shooter who is still at large tied up and shot six women at a suburban clothing store in Chicago, leaving five of them dead and the remaining one injured.

February 2008 – a man opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, killing five students and wounding 16 others before laying down his weapon and surrendering.

September 2008
– a mentally ill man who was released from jail one month earlier shot eight people in Alger, Washington, leaving six of them dead and the rest two wounded.

December 2008 – a man dressed in a Santa Claus suit opened fire at a family Christmas party in Covina, California, then set fire on the house and killed himself. Police later found nine people dead in the debris of the house.

March 2009 – a 28-year-old laid-off worker opened fire while driving a car through several towns in Alabama, killing 10 people.

March 2009 – a heavily armed gunman shot dead eight people, many of them elderly and sick, in a private-owned nursing home in North Carolina.

March 2009 – six people were shot dead in a high-grade apartment building in Santa Clara, California.

April 2009 – a man shot dead 13 people at a civic center in Binghamton, New York.

July 2009 – Six people, including one student, were shot in a drive-by shooting at a community rally on the campus of Texas Southern University, Houston.

November 2009 – U.S. army psychologist Major Nidal Hasan opened fire at a military base in Fort Hood, Texas, leaving 13 dead and 42 others wounded.

February 2010 – A professor opened fire 50 minutes into at a Biological Sciences Department faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, killing three colleagues and wounding three others.

January 2011 – a gunman opened fire at a public gathering outside a grocery in Tucson, Arizona, killing six people including a 9-year-old girl and wounding at least 12 others. Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford was severely injured with a gunshot to the head.

2012

 

April 2 – A gunman kills seven people and wounds three in a shooting rampage at a Christian college in Oakland.

July 20 – A masked gunman kills 12 people and wounds 58 when he opens fire on moviegoers at a showing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, Colorado.

Aug. 5 – A gunman kills six people during Sunday services at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, before he is shot dead by a police officer.

Aug. 24 – Two people are killed and eight wounded in a shooting outside the landmark Empire State Building in New York City at the height of the tourist season.

Sept. 27 – A disgruntled former employee kills five people and takes his own life in a shooting rampage at a Minneapolis sign company from which he had been fired.

Oct. 21 – Three people are killed in a Milwaukee area spa including the estranged wife of the suspected gunman, who then killed himself.

Dec. 14 – A shooter opens fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, involving the cold-blooded mass murder of 20 children and six adults.

President Obama Puts Forth his Plan

     Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, there has become much renewed interest in gun control. It seems to this observer that what the President has proposed is a kind of targeted, focused solution to the problem of gun violence. Thus, he put forward a plan that centers on guns and the people who use them in these mass murders. But policy also centers more broadly on criminal violence everywhere guns are used in the commission of a crime. The emphasis of these gun control policies goes back to my typology of violence, in this case—individual violence.

The proposal, which comes at the end of a month-long review process spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden, is broken down into four sections:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Availability of dangerous Firearms and Ammunition
  • School Safety
  • Mental Health

Overview

In an effort to touch on all four of those elements, the president recommended requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales; reinstating the assault weapons ban; restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines; eliminating armor-piercing bullets; providing mental health services in schools; allocating funds to hire more police officers; and instituting a federal gun trafficking statute, among other policies. The cost of the package, senior officials estimated, would be roughly $500 million, some of which could come from already budgeted funds.

Because these recommendations require congressional approval, the administration is supplementing its proposal with 23 executive actions that will be taken immediately. Those actions include requiring federal agencies to hand over relevant data for a background check system; providing law enforcement officials, first responders and school officials with better training for active shooting situations; directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence; and many more.

What’s in Obama’s Gun Control Proposal?

The following material was obtained from a news report of the New York Times. It basically laid out all of the specifics of the President’s new plan to stem gun violence. The initiative to reduce gun violence announced by President Obama  included both legislative proposals that would need to be acted on by Congress and executive actions he can do on his own. Many of the executive actions involve the president directing agencies to do a better job of sharing information.

 

Proposed Congressional Actions

  • Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, including those by private sellers that currently are exempt.
  • Reinstating and strengthening the ban on assault weapons that was in place from 1994 to 2004.
  • Limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
  • Banning the possession of armor-piercing bullets by anyone other than members of the military and law enforcement.
  • Increasing criminal penalties for “straw purchasers,” people who pass the required background check to buy a gun on behalf of someone else.
  • Acting on a $4 billion administration proposal to help keep 15,000 police officers on the street.
  • Confirming President Obama’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
  • Eliminating a restriction that requires the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to allow the importation of weapons that are more than 50 years old.
  • Financing programs to train more police officers, first responders and school officials on how to respond to active armed attacks.
  • Providing additional $20 million to help expand the system that tracks violent deaths across the nation from 18 states to 50 states.
  • Providing $30 million in grants to states to help schools develop emergency response plans.
  • Providing financing to expand mental health programs for young people.

 

Executive actions

  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  • Addressing unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  • Improving incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  • Directing the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  • Proposing a rule making to give law enforcement authorities the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  • Publishing a letter from the A.T.F. to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  • Starting a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  • Reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  • Releasing a report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and making it widely available to law enforcement authorities.
  • Nominating an A.T.F. director.
  • Providing law enforcement authorities, first responders and school officials with proper training for armed attack situations.
  • Maximizing enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.
  • Directing the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun-safety technologies and challenging the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
  • Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
  • Releasing a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  • Providing incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  • Developing model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  • Releasing a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  • Finalizing regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within insurance exchanges.
  • Committing to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  • Starting a national dialogue on mental health led by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education.

 

Post Script

     In Part II ahead I will begin to provide statistical evidence on violence against children in those areas in which data are collected. One of the major areas of abuse against children is physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and the neglect of children. Sibling abuse is difficult to measure and there exists no standardized data collection system. Survey research may be the only way to look at its prevalence.

In Part III of the series, sex trafficking of children, corporal punishment in American schools, the problems of bullying, kidnapping and other crimes perpetrated against children will be covered.

Part IV in my series will examine any types of abuse not covered earlier, and I will put forth a set of recommendations on how to deal with violence directed against children beyond the current ones proposed to stem gun violence. However, I did notice that, where gun violence is concerned, several former, disgruntled employees were involved in killing family members and former co-workers back at the work site. I did not see any legislative or executive actions or recommendations related to what employers could do, or what their responsibility might be to help discharged employees. I will say more about this in my recommendations in Part IV.         

 

 

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