As a society, we like to believe that almost all families are wholesome, healthy,
and caring. Television and newspaper stories about children who have been abused
and even murdered must be isolated acts, we think, done by deranged or mentally
defective people. Most of us want to believe that our family unit will provide each of its
members with love, security, and comfort. Unfortunately, too often the family is a place
of pain, injury, and instability. Any family member is liable to be or become a victim of
abuse, but children are perhaps the least able to protect themselves or understand why
the abuse is taking place.
a. The Problem. Since family members protect themselves and each other, the
violence in a family unit is often downplayed, covered up, or ignored. It is estimated that
there are actually many more cases of child abuse, a major form of family violence, than
are reported. The following statistics of reported cases indicate the magnitude of the
(1) There are an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 cases of child abuse
reported every year in the United States.
(2) Up to 5,000 children die every year as a result of injury or neglect by
their parents. Three out of five reported deaths are children under two years old.
(3) Up to 6,000 children are permanently brain-damaged each year as a
result of child abuse.
(4) Sixty thousand children are reported to be the victims of sexual abuse
every year. It is estimated that a more accurate figure would be nearly 500,000 children
abused sexually each year.
(5) Researchers disagree on the number of victims of child abuse. Some
social researchers estimate that over 1.5 million children are kicked, punched, or bitten
by their parents every year and another 750,000 children may be beaten annually.
Remember, even these numbers may be too small. Surveys conducted depend on self-
reporting, and how many parents did not admit to abusing their children?