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By Christine Lee
Four weeks ago, I met a little girl. She is nine years old, turning ten in October. She was animatedly telling me how excited she was to finally be reaching her “double digits”, and how her father had promised her that she could spend that day with her friends. It was only a week later that I found out why she was so excited.
In June, I became an instructor at a local camp for children, and had the opportunity of teaching kids from the age of five to twelve. It was at this camp that I met this little girl. Everyday after the camp ended, she would give me a big hug before skipping the way back home with oversized jacket sleeves flopping in the wind. No one could have known what was going on inside this sweet girl’s household.
This little girl is nine, shy of ten. As much of a “big girl” that she would like to be, she is a young child, underdeveloped compared to other children. When she grows older, she will continue to live out her life, and possibly forget most of her childhood. Some adults call children naive, susceptible to crying at the smallest things. However, this girl has strength that is unknown to most adults.
I can’t testify for her story myself. There is still much of her home life that I don’t know, and that that I can’t tell. What I do know, are the Band-Aids on her knees that she wears to class every day, the talks that she has with me about how she hates going to her father’s house, and the days where she comes to class with drying tear stains on her face. But somehow, through all the struggles that she goes through, she always comes to class with a bright smile.
But not all children have the same strength. Although I do believe that children have a willpower and determination that many adults do not have, many of these children end up losing their lives to child abuse every day. The United States has one of the worst statistics on child abuse among industrialized nations-losing four to seven children each day due to some form of child abuse or neglect. According to the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (or the NAASCA), about 80 percent of 21 year olds that were abused as children met the criteria for at least one psychological disorder. Although child abuse and neglect is common knowledge, many people focus on the physical damage done to the child, rather than the long term effects.
Through this little girl that I met at camp, I learned that recognizing child abuse isn’t easy. It’s hard to report and understand what you do not know, but I believe that it is an adult’s responsibility to report any possible form of trauma. Because kids do not self-report, without help from older individuals, more and more children are losing their lives, and facing the risk of growing up to have a mental disorder.