Ending silence can reduce child abuse

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Ending silence can reduce child abuse

A stepmother beat an 8-year-old girl to death, breaking 16 out of her 24 ribs. The girl also lost her muscles in her buttocks as she was chronically battered, and her leg was broken in two places last year. Human brutality can be shockingly extreme. The stepmother, society and those who remained silent failed to protect the innocent child are all at fault.

There was a chance to save her two years ago. A kindergarten teacher reported signs of abuse, but the child protection agency had no choice but to return the child to her home as the stepmother denied the accusations. Since then, no one, including her father, teachers or friends intervened to save her.

Child abuse experts say that abusive parents have mental problems, and that the assaulter and the victim should have been separated. However, the authorities, who claim to address child abuse with the Child Welfare Act and the protection agency, have been incompetent when their actions were most needed. While a prosecutor can request the termination of parental rights based on a history of abuse, approvals are limited to extreme cases, such as a father who sexually abuses his own daughter.

In many cases, violence masked as disciplinary punishment doesn’t even get reported to the police. So it may be foolish to trust the incompetent authority to handle child abuse properly.

Now, we can only rely on each other, and we should become the watchdogs for our neighbors. Child abuse must not be taken lightly. It is “murdering the soul,” and in developed countries, punishments are severe and parental rights are often terminated.

Child abuse often has a lasting effect on the victims. It is widely known that heinous serial killers like Yoo Young-cheol and Kang Ho-sun were abused as children. The JoongAng Ilbo traced the childhoods of 159 convicts tried at the Suwon District Court and found that more than 70 percent of them were victims of domestic violence. In the mid-1990s, a member of the serial-killing Jijonpa gang said, “My mother? I regret that I didn’t kill her with my hands.” It was later learned that he, too, was a victim of child abuse.

Neglecting child abuse is like abetting the murder of a soul, and the boomerang of violence may return to us. The Child Welfare Act stipulates that anyone who learns of child abuse must report it to the police.

But an offender may be released after an investigation, depending on what really happened. However, we need to watch out for children in our neighborhoods and constantly demand that the government protect them properly.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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