On Monday, the Institute of Medicine issued a report that was basically an updated study on child abuse following up their initial essay entitled “Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect” published in 1993.
Twenty years later, the news is promising — neglect and physical abuse have declined. Reported incidents of sexual abuse declined the most significantly in the ensuing decades. While this is encouraging, the IOM emphasized the importance of continued due diligence in this regard, suggesting that state and federal agencies work together to implement early intervention programs as well as a surveillance system that tracks and links child abuse cases across the country.
As I wrote yesterday, the report states that the highest risk factors are parental chemical dependency, depression, and the parents’ history of abuse. No surprise there.
But a question I have asked myself over and over is why spouses and/or partners are silent, if not willing participants in abuse instigated by the other parent. Many times the one who actively abuses the child is arrested right along with the parent who allowed the abuse to occur in the first place.
In a blog for mentalhelp.net, Dr Allan Schwartz suggests several possibilities for parental denial:
- The other spouse is either abused him or herself, or is frightened that they maybe assaulted if they speak out
- Both spouses are mentally ill and actually collude because of a shared interest in sadism (which is especially frightening)
- Both parents are chronic drug and/or alcohol abusers
- The “other” parent was abused as a child themselves
He ends the essay by encouraging us to “trust our gut” and to act on what we see, rather than brushing it off because “nice people just don’t do that kind of thing.”
And early intervention is key, according to the IOM report. In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study led by Dr John J Stirling that concluded that early, unchecked child abuse or neglect can lead to a myriad of problems such as emotional instability and depression. Children subjected to long-term abuse tend to be aggressive and violent toward others, furthering the cycle of abuse.