The war dead

Dismal, tragic, shameful, embarrassing…but not at all surprising. The US has the worst rate of child death through violence of any industrialized country, by far. What a disgusting statistic.

Model of a child from a tv ad aimed at reducing abuse

Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. That is nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That last statistic gave me a jolt, I can tell you. The soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are a big deal, as they should be. The four times as many children killed by family members are not.

The child maltreatment death rate in the US is triple Canada’s and 11 times that of Italy. Millions of children are reported as abused and neglected every year.
Why is that?

Well, frankly, it’s because we do so many things the wrong way.

Part of the answer is that teen pregnancy, high-school dropout, violent crime,
imprisonment, and poverty – factors associated with abuse and neglect – are
generally much higher in the US.

Further, other rich nations have social policies that provide child care,
universal health insurance, pre-school, parental leave and visiting nurses to
virtually all in need.

So nothing will change then.


  1. says

    These stats are hard to believe, truly hard to believe! And incredibly sad. How could this many children just fall through the cracks? What is it about a highly religious society that would make this kind of abuse possible? I think the two things are linked. There is some evidence that the Christian redemption story is modelled on the Hellenistic-Roman-Jewish patriarchalism cum child abuse and abandonment (something that went on for centuries) — think the story of Jesus in the garden, his cry of abandonment from the cross. But this story is deeply embedded in the Christian story. We have seen some recent evidence of the excessive use of discipline by Christians in the US, and the model for this abuse is right there in the Christian story of redemption. It would be surprising if there were no link, especially since so many children are being home-schooled now, and there seems to be very little supervision of children who are in home-schooling situations.

    Of course, this is only speculation, but from the few things that I have been reading about this lately — and was going to address on the blog — it stands to reason that there is a connexion.

  2. says

    Reading this article about abuse of millions of American children, I am looking over my shoulder on my own doorstep at Mother Ireland and it’s not so cherished children of the nation. There have been 35 deaths and 16 serious incidents involving children in the care of the Health Service Executive, or adolescents known to the service, since March last year, according to figures obtained by RTE today. The causes of death of the children and teenagers include drug overdose, suicide, car accidents and other causes. There were 22 deaths and nine serious incidents last year. Can you just imagine a nation that would fit nicely into Texas. alone, having so many child deaths on their hands.

    The statistics are terribly disgraceful for America, a country that has been to the forefront for so long, in all things modern, can also be antediluvian in its treatment of its most precious jewels – its future.

  3. says

    Thanks Ophelia. No, I didn’t know about Janet Heimlich’s blog (or book), but I do now. I will read it with a great deal of interest. Religion really is a crazy phenomenon. It really does need to be deconstructed in detail, and then, hopefully, its rottenness will help it just fade away. (Well, we can dream, can’t we?)

  4. sailor1031 says

    “A national strategy, led by our national government, needs to be developed and implemented. For a start, the Congress should adopt legislation that would create a National Commission to End Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities”

    As always when the states fail to live up to their responsibilities it falls to the federal government to try to do something. This of course will be mightily resisted, especially by those states most in need of intervention (such as Texas), as more over-reach by Washington….
    The way to get the much cherished rethuglican ideal of smaller federal government would be for the states to start living up to their responsibilities. Had they done so in the past the fed. would be much smaller than it is today.

  5. Aquaria says

    A national strategy, led by our national government, needs to be developed and implemented. For a start, the Congress should adopt legislation that would create a National Commission to End Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

    Nothing will be done. You can’t correct it because the problem comes from factors that America won’t do anything about. Look at the inclusion of imprisonment. We imprison more people than any other nation on earth, and we have some of the longest prison sentences as well. Not just of industrialized nations. Of all nations.

    Does anyone seriously think that any politician can get elected in America if he says, “You know, maybe we need to look at why we’re imprisoning so many people.” He’s dead in the water.

    So there’s a factor that won’t change. You can go through the others, and the results are the same.

  6. says

    I was physically abused by my parents, usually by my father at the behest of my mother, and she quoted Bible verses as justification. One of the terrible ironies is that neither of my parents were or are particularly religious. Their religiosity did take a temporary upswing, however, while they were raising children. It seems to me that they bought into what is a common idea, even among secularists, that a faith-based worldview is helpful for guiding your offspring through to adulthood. It gives them morals and whatnot. I suspect that perhaps it’s really just a crutch for parents who want a list of rules to give, because it seems like too much work to attempt to apply critical thinking to parenting.

    Whatever the reason(s), I think this practice, of pretending to be religious for the sake of one’s children, is one that gnus should be more vocal about and speak out against. It causes suffering.

  7. says

    I think this needs to be understood in the context of Steven Pinker’s new book, which I am reading now, in which he shows that the U.S. is a clear outlier among rich nations when it comes to all violence. We’re still better than Russia, but somehow that doesn’t fill me with national pride.

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