Save children from abuseSometimes, we wonder if our society has any mechanisms to prevent child abuse and provide adequate care. The recent assault case in Chilgok County, North Gyeongsang, exposed an embarrassingly cold and degrading side of our society. In August last year, a woman from the area beat her 8-year-old stepdaughter to death and made the victim’s 12-year-old sister take the blame. The girl, having witnessed her younger sister’s death, made a false confession out of fear that she, too, could die at the hands of her cruel stepmother.
But the sisters received no protection or help from law enforcement officers, community care centers or their school. The victim had reported her assault and abuse to the police for two years before she was killed. But her voice was ignored. Her teacher also informed a child protection group that there were signs of assault, but the group failed to keep watch over the abusive parents.
The investigation carried out by law enforcement officers was even more pitiful. Despite numerous reports of abuse and circumstantial evidence, police and prosecutors wrapped up the case entirely based on the older sister’s false confession. After juvenile care, the girl was returned to her abusive stepmother. It is common sense that abused children should be kept safe from their dangerous parents or caretakers.
The girl’s torture did not end after she was returned to her home. She was forced by her father to write letters to authorities to pardon her murderous stepmother. She was finally reprieved after her aunt saved her from her parents and persuaded her to tell the full story. The police and prosecutors have done nothing. Prosecutors charged the stepmother with assault instead of murder.
How many more innocent children have to be sacrificed before society pays attention to children who are in danger? A society is not reliable if it cannot protect small children. At this moment, there are many children living in terror from maltreatment and abuse similar to the girl who was beaten to death in Chilgok. Society should rush to strengthen its ability to protect and save children from abusive hands.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 8, Page 30