Harsher penalities needed for child abusers

By Clyde Davis

“They cry in the dark, so you can’t see their tears

They hide in the light, so you can’t see their fears

Forgive and forget, all the while

Love and pain become one and the same

In the eyes of a wounded child”

{Benetar/Geraldo, “Hell is for Children”}

Pat Benetar, Susan Vega, Natalie Merchant, Metallica (yes, Metallica !) are only some of the popular musicians who have written and recorded songs decrying child abuse.

In an interview with Portfolio Weekly, Benatar explained: “I was living in New York when we wrote it and the New York Times sold a series of articles about child abuse in America. I came from a really small town on Long Island and I had no idea that this existed, not in the little gingerbread place I came from. I was stunned. It affected me so much. I was moved by the articles. Whenever that would happen I would write. I said to Neil (Giraldo, her husband and guitarist), ‘I want you to do something to the music that it sounds like pain. I want the intense pain that’s happening to these children in the notes,’ and so he did and it turned out just great. It became an anthem. I always wonder if other people have lofty intentions. I didn’t.”

Child abuse is one of those ugly realities most of us hide from, pretending it doesn’t exist, until it becomes personal. It’s much easier that way. Unfortunately, for some of us, being personal isn’t a choice. For some of us, child abuse and neglect are family affairs, impacting the children we love- nieces, nephews, grandchildren.

“I use the phrase, hell is for children, almost every day in the newsroom. I’ve lived in San Antonio for four years. In that time, I have seen some of the worst child abuse cases in the nation. Deep in the landscape of this beautiful, serene city — is a very ugly epidemic. Babies thrown against walls. Little girls and boys starved, beaten, tied up and tortured. Broken bones — often too many for the M.E. to count — fractured skulls, broken ribs and scars from old injuries. Most of the time, these children are younger than three.” Delaine Mathieu, WOAI-TV, San Antonio.

The horrors are too great to face, they paralyze, so we choose not to deal with them. Lawyers, judges, police, find them hard to deal with, and easier to hide from than to face.

Yet we must.

Stiffer penalties, and penalties that are made to stick, not “time off for good behavior.” In the opinion of this taxpayer and honest citizen, if you beat a child, there really seems little need for you to see daylight for a long, long time.

Perhaps the old legal system of punishment in-kind would be better applied. You leave a kid in a hot car, you get left in a hot car. You neglect your child medically, you get neglected medically. You leave your child without food, you get left without food.

Funding for additional employees so overworked CYFD workers can devote more time and energy to case.

There is no panacea. But we as a society have to face the reality — something must be done.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at: clyde_davis@yahoo.com