Pulbished Article in MPN.com back in Feb 2012……..
Feb. 13, 2012 – original writing
Missing Children and Abuse
Written By: Patricia A. McKnight
Author: “My Justice”
Recently I was approached about writing an article on the relationship of abuse and our missing children. When I first began to look into the many different aspects involved with abuse and the “Missing Child”, I was astounded by the numbers of our youth who are affected and the many different reasons provided. First, let me explain that I found quite a few sites that provided information on this subject, but I’d like to outline a few of the most reported reasons before proceeding.
1) Missing Children can be the result of parental abduction
2) Missing Children can be taken by a stranger or some other predator, (maybe even one they trust).
3) Missing Children can be the result of fleeing the fear of abuse, sexual assault, or confrontation with their parents.
4) Missing Children can be the result of outside influences, such as: gangs, bullying, drugs, or temptation from peers to challenge their parent’s authority.
5) Some of the reports of missing children are related to what is referred to as “throwaways”. These reports are usually made by someone other than the child’s parents.
All of the above issues came into play when doing the research for this article. However, according to the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS; http://www.1800runaway.org/) report provided for year statistics of 2002; “The exact reasoning for why a child leaves home is hard to determine because many of them do not reach out for help.” This report is based on the children who call the hotline number to be provided with a safe place from our streets and those who prey on them. The young children who make up the largest portion of these cases reported fleeing because of abuse. It seems that an astounding 1.6 to 2.8 million youth, age 12-17, escape from the fear of those around them each year. The NRS found 77% of these children, both boys & girls, reported fear of physical or sexual abuse prior to leaving home.
This is phenomenal to me and these stats are a bit outdated. I find myself curious about the new number of those living in shelters or making the call to get help from our streets. What is even more astounding to me is that their report also shows at least 50% of our homeless youth are what they refer to as “throwaway” children. These are children who were either told by their parent to leave or told their parent they were leaving but no one seemed to care. I can only think of one way to actually bring you into the mind of these homeless children and to what their world must be like, that is by writing the below opinion for you to consider.
If you could sit for a moment while reading this article and imagine that you are a young child. Let’s say about fifteen years old for the sake of this experiment. Also, I would like you to think about your own demographics as a mid-teen. Was your home low income? Was there a great deal of tension or anger inside your home? How about your parents? Was one or both of them abusive or neglectful towards you? Did they get involved with your daily life? Did you have dinner as a family together in the evening? Was it a time of healthy discussion or was it quiet with little conversation about what you were dealing with at school or with existing peer pressures? How about drug use? Was it discussed openly? Did either of your parents provide you with the positive support and guidance that a teenager so often requires?
Hopefully you have the picture of your own childhood and your home environment in your thoughts. It is now that I want you to take the pressures of your childhood and multiply those issues by ten. This will allow for the 10 years of growth in our society since you were that age and these above statistics were provided. Consider the added pressures of our youth today with the gang influences; the continuous cyber bullying that plays into their daily life. Add the stress of parents to keep a decent income within the home and the often requirement of both parents to maintain a job outside of the home. How about the increase of single parent households or the many parents who are on medications relating to their mental health and possible emotional scars from their own abusive childhood?
We have now created a vision for our teens living in the new age of social development. You might often see a teen that appears to be having problems and brush it aside, but have you taken time to consider what might be troubling that child? At least 80% of the total number of homeless girls, who reached out for help in the study from 2002, reported being sexually or physically abused. This isn’t to say that young boys are not a factor in this situation, but the larger reports of sexual abuse came from girls. Many of us know that girls, especially between the ages of 9 to 18, are at a higher risk of being sexually abused; but that risk is only about 1 in 4, where boys are at a 1 in 5 risk of being sexually abused within this age range.
The impact of the silence surrounding abuse leaves a child feeling desperate, alone, broken by those they trust. Imagine a child being so terrified of those who are entrusted with their every day care. They are forced to keep secrets of being raped or molested for years. Perhaps they are even terrified with a serious threat of death from their abuser. This is a cruel start to their young life and we are forced, when they leave home to the streets, to think about the severe impact of the abuse they’ve suffered.
When a child is abused within what should be, the safety net of their home, it will leave them to doubt their own self-worth, which often leads to the use of alcohol and drugs to help bury that personal shame. It is way too often that the traumas of these crimes are brushed aside and rather than deal with the damage they are told, “It happened, now just get over it”. That is an impossible feat for a child. Many of the adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, on average 60 million, are living with what they often refer to as “A lifetime sentence”. Even if the child gets support and is helped to understand the sexual crime, they are still often left with the long term affect and will undoubtedly be troubled in their adult relationships; some may be so severely traumatized that it requires years of therapy and daily personal struggles to overcome. There is nothing to say that a person ever recovers from the trauma of sexual abuse. Most often they can come to terms with the situation, but will still be plagued with nightmares and flashbacks, which can be triggered by certain smells, music, a kiss, a touch, colors; everyday types of basic daily living can cause panic or anxiety for decades. It is estimated that about 32% of all abused children will attempt suicide before they consider running away to life on the streets.
The crimes of abuse against our children have become, and are now, a pandemic situation. We hear it on the news and read it in the papers every day. Most often, however, it doesn’t gain our attention until a child is found brutally murdered, either on the streets as a runaway or in their homes by someone who is supposed to love and guide them through these difficult years. More often than not these children will leave home to escape being abused, fleeing for safety elsewhere, but then are taken in by pimps and predators who at first will lead them to believe all is well but then push them into prostitution, sell them into sex slavery; some may be kept prisoner by a predator for their own personal satisfaction. This is the cruel reality of our children who are so broken that they are left with no choice but to run for their own protection.
We must as a society, take on the responsibility of protecting all of the children around us. They have such an extreme amount of pressure to keep up in school with technology and advanced learning. The new age of social media leads to an increase of being lured away from home or added bullying from their peers online. Our homes have become a view of how much can “I” own to show a certain status in society. In this challenge, or need, to earn more and gain more our children are left with little of our attention to show them a positive support system in a home that is loving and, most importantly, safe.
In the end there are more and more children running away, become missing or are even throwaways because of our blind acceptance of abuse. The growing number of these children cannot all be helped and supported by the volunteer programs or the state and nationally funded programs. This reason is simply because of our country’s financial breakdown as a whole. The allowance for state and nationally funded programs are being cut continuously. Sometimes this is because of misuse of funds, but mostly because of the constant budget cuts, of which we all are aware. The volunteer programs cannot be sustained if our neighbors are all out of work or having their own incomes cut in half. It is a crucial time to step up in our country. Whether we like it or not there is a dire need for vigilance against abuse and a simple nature of caring for another, especially when it comes to our children. This simple attitude of caring can create a great change in the number of our missing youth.
It is time to realize the constant pressure they are under and the many ways that they can become influenced to go in what seems to be the wrong direction, which without a support system, can leave them to run away and fend for themselves. This is like giving them to the wolves and saying to ourselves that some must be sacrificed. No child should ever have to feel that deep pain of being abandoned by the family who should provide them with unconditional love.
There should be no “throwaway” children in our society. Each and every child deserves the benefit of knowing someone good in their circle of life; someone who will protect them, support them, guide them, and most of all want them to grow in a healthy loving manner. They should have the possibility to become a very important person, perhaps creating a cure for the largest disease that plagues our society; not cancer, but instead the violence around them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a way to promote and create kindness and love towards each other? A simple way to change the pandemic of child abuse, runaways or throwaway children is by truly starting in our homes and actually caring about the children we bring into this cruel world.
1) NRS Statistics on Runaways from Peer-reviewed Journals and Federal Studies http://www.1800runaway.org/)
2) Suicide Risk Among Abused Children/Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on August 4, 2008 http://psychcentral.com/news/2008/08/04/suicide-risk-among-abused-children/2685.html