In the recent wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which took the lives of 20 innocent, young children and six adult educators, society has been rocked to its core in complete and utter disbelief that such a heinous act would ever transcend in a school environment considered untouchable. Unfortunately, this unimaginable tragedy has served as little more than a political springboard for legislators and lobbyists to perpetuate the debate over gun control when the true focus should be placed on evaluating the quality and appropriate dispersion of mental health services to those in need.
Especially given the ages of a majority of the victims and a seemingly unexplainable driving forcé to indicate motive by the aggressor, both the government and its constituents are demanding an immediate resolve. As a parent, I could never imagine the pain that would be inflicted or the revenge that would be sought in the face of losing a child. However, as a strong proponent of the Constitution, I would also, still defend the rights afforded to us by our forefathers in the Second Amendment to bear arms. The old adage being, guns don’t kill people, People kill people. As trite as the statement sounds, it is undebatable truth. We live in a society where we should have the right to protect our freedom, our lives, our property, our children… and the God given right to be free from the fear of being accosted or accused in declaring our right in doing so.
Defining the root of violence rests not only in a thorough examination of the psychological backdrop of the mental health profession but also by placing emphasis on the communal responsibility of parents, legislators and educators in recognizing the precursors of child abuse and neglect that inevitably contribute to creating such an outcome.
The scope of child abuse which ranges from physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect, all have significant negative consequences on children, including behavioral and academic problems which are seen not only in the classroom but in the family dynamic as well. While it is the legal responsibility of any professional to report suspected abuse, it is an even greater responsibilty to heighten society's awareness of these indicators which contribue to the damaged psyche of both the victim and the perpetrator.
Physical trauma, sudden changes in academic performance and inappropriate sexual aggressiveness are clear indications that child abuse and neglect is occurring in the home. Similarly, children will often reveal both physical and verbal clues that reflect common traits of abusive parents suffering from addiction and depression, which can be seen in any number of inclinations from a child’s poor personal hygiene, excessive hunger, stealing from classmates or sudden outbursts in the classroom.
Research has indicated the disheartening fact that most children who have been subject to state intervention because of suspected child abuse, view their personal circumstances as “episodic rather than chronic” due to the instilled fear of parental consequences or being removed from the home. When children have become accustomed to a life of violence and discord, they are 5 times as likely to commit a viloent act as an adult. Research has also shown that parental neglect or abuse is less likely to be reported by a non-relative than any other suspected crime in societal norms.
Rather than placing blame on gun control, society needs to make a personal commitment to the protection and safety of our children through rehabilitation programs, family counseling, intervention programs and creative classroom cirriculum which emphasizes awareness and violence prevention among families and educators alike.
There is no question that child abuse is a growing epidemic which affects millions of families each year. Without addressing the lapses in mental health care services, coupled with troubled economic circumstances, addiction and personal stressors, the likelihood of a similar reoccurance unfolding like the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, will not only be a possible reality but a dreaded certainty.