Columbia Heights, Minnesota
By Imane ait Daoud, iLander Staff Reporter
Punishments can happen when you’re growing up, but it is not supposed to be violent or instill fear. For example, say you aren’t home by a certain time. Your parents might yell at you and take away your PlayStation or computer privileges. Maybe you won’t be able to hang out with friends for awhile.
But sometimes it goes beyond that in the worst ways.
One teen, who asked to be anonymous, said she would “often get in trouble because people would call me too early in the morning. My stepdad felt it was inappropriate. He would whip me with a belt, and I would struggle to fight back.”
Have you ever been neglected or punished to the point where it became abuse? Most of the time abuse happens behind closed doors. Therefore, we can’t always see it. Fortunately, there are many signs of child abuse.
When children are abused, CHHS Psychologist Melissa Kinney said, they become introverted, they lash out at others and are sometimes triggered by certain movements or objects that bring rise to certain emotions.
Any punishment that causes physical harm is abuse. Kinney said physical abuse causes some kids to become timid and lowers their self-esteem. This also happens to kids who are mentally abused. However, the police department mainly gets involved in cases where there is physical violence.
“The number-one thing we get involved in is when there is physical abuse going on, or evidence of physical abuse,” said Community Policing Coordinator Terry Nightingale, of the Columbia Heights Police Department.
Emotional abuse is also bad. It can be worse because the wounds are not seen on the outside.
“Emotional abuse lasts forever, and it takes more time to overcome,” Kinney said.
According to the Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota Circle of Parents Support Group, 20 percent of 5,400 reports of abuse in Minnesota in 2008 involved physical abuse. Emotional abuse took up about 1 percent. According to Childhelp.org, every year in the United States there are about 3.3 million reports of child abuse involving about 6 million kids, and five kids die every day due to abuse-related deaths.
Columbia Heights statistics are less outrageous than that (given the size of the city). In 2011, there were only 16 child protection orders by the police. It was the about the same in 2010 and 2008. When is it OK for kids to be taken away from their parents?
“A police officer will take the child away only when absolutely necessary,” Nightingale said. “Overall, social services caseworkers know children are best served by their biological parents.”
Many kids are afraid to call 911 because they are afraid of being taken away, or having their parents thrown into jail. They feel as though they are betraying their kin.
“The right way to end abuse is to call 911,” the anonymous teen said. “Because, at the end of the day, it’s your life. It may be hard, but you have to do it.”
The message is pretty much the same for people who witness abuse.
“Anyone who sees it,” Nightingale said, “should call 911 and have the police investigate right away.”
Kinney said kids who see or experience child abuse should get therapy. And if they do not, they should at least talk about it with someone.
“When you're suffering from abuse, talking is a rational way to work things out. It’s effective in many situations,” she said.
There are many ways to get help. You could go to the police or to someone close to you trust, such as a guidance counselor, a neighbor or a friend. There is even Anoka County Child Protection. So if you read this story and you can relate, do something about it today.
(Stock photo used with educational intent.)