The nation was shocked in December with the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. To lose so many children in a single incident was devastating.
Each week, more children than died at Sandy Hook die equally horrific deaths across our nation; however, their deaths go mostly unnoticed outside of their communities.
According to ChildHelp.org, the United States loses five children every day to child abuse and neglect. The numbers reported are believed to be lower than the actual deaths since some deaths are not known to be the result of abuse at the time the children die.
A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds and many more go unreported. What makes these statistics so tragic is that most of these children are abused and killed at the hands of those who should be protecting them: parents, stepparents, family members and friends.
One woman's quest to draw attention to the children who have been killed as a result of child abuse and neglect began in 2010.
Malysa Stone became a powerful voice for the children in December 2010. To date, Stone has shared the stories of more than 1200 children on her Facebook page Unforgotten Angels.
Since stumbling on the page a few weeks ago, I have looked through all of the 13 photo albums of the unforgotten angels. Most contain 100 photos of children murdered at the hands of their parents and other adults who should have been protecting them from harm.
The photos are of smiling infants, toddlers and young children, all whose lives were stolen. The stories which accompany each photo are tragic and heartbreaking. Most include follow-up information about the trials of the killers.
Stone and her assistants memorialize each child annually on their birthday and what she calls their "angelversary," the date they were killed.
The names and stories of the children's deaths are all unique, yet tragically similar. Here are a few of the names.
Dontrell was only 5 months old when he was killed and buried, his body found in the backyard of his parents' former house.
Michaela was 10 years old when she was murdered by her father and stepmother. Eliza was 5 years old when she and her mother were murdered by her mother's boyfriend.
Vanessa was 3 months old when she was beaten to death by her parents. William was 3 years old when he was beaten and asphyxiated by his stepfather.
Andrea, 14, and Daniel, 10, were shot to death by their father, who also killed their mother. Tameria was 8 years old when she was stabbed to death by her mother.
Sisters Kayla and Kerri were 10 and 12 when they were shot to death by their father on Kerri's birthday. He also killed their mother.
The stories go on and on and the reasons for the deaths are incomprehensible. Some of these angels were killed because they wouldn't take a nap, some because of jealousy, some because of anger and rage toward the parent.
Five children every day adds up to 35 children every week, many dying as they lived life: in the dark shadows of child abuse.
A theme repeated again and again is that of a failed system. Many of these children suffered abuse which was reported prior to the final abuse which took their lives. Yet, they somehow fell through the cracks of an overburdened child abuse protection system.
I urge you to take a stand against child abuse in your community. Raise awareness of the children whose voices have been eternally silenced.
Malysa Stone has added several volunteer assistants to her group recently and a website that is currently under construction. Please visit the Facebook page and add your voice to those crying out for justice for the children.
There are also albums on the page for missing children and for survivors of abuse. Like the unforgotten angels albums, the stories of missing children and survivors are shared with all who visit the page.
Sadly, there's always a need for more help in spreading the stories of the lives and tragic, untimely deaths of these children: the unforgotten angels.