Recent and horrific stories remind us of our responsibility to protect our children from abuse and from the monsters who abuse them.
And by “ours” we mean every child, not just the ones we raise. We have an obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
That’s why child abuse — in all forms — must be reported. In fact, it’s the law for many professionals. Oregon Revised Statute 419B.010 reads: “Any public or private official having reasonable cause to believe that any child with whom the official comes in contact has suffered abuse, or that any person with whom the official comes in contact has abused a child shall immediately report or cause a report to be made.”
There is a list of officials and professionals who have a legal obligation to report child abuse. They include law enforcement officials, doctors, nurses, school officials, firefighters, attorneys and others.
The Oregon state website, Oregon.gov, offers some good advice on how to report suspected abuse. It recognizes the need for confidentiality, both for the victim and for the person who, in good faith, reports the abuse.
So what is abuse? It ranges from physical to sexual to outright neglect. Most rational adults know it when they see it and if you have a “reasonable” suspicion that a child is being abused, you should report it to the police, or to child protective services (Department of Human Services), or to anyone capable of stopping it.
In Oregon, abuse is also defined by the conditions we force our children to live in. There is little doubt that hundreds or thousands of Douglas County children are living in homes where dangerous drugs are used and sometimes manufactured.
That’s why state laws also specifically define child abuse as “permitting a person younger than 18 years or younger to enter, or remain in or upon premises where methamphetamines are being manufactured.”
Meth is specifically included in the statute because law enforcement and child protective services professionals recognize that it may be our area’s number one social problem.
The synthetic drug is relatively inexpensive and highly addictive.
It’s easy to see why some would ignore the obvious.
“It’s not my business.”
“I don’t need the trouble.”
“I’m sure someone else will report it.”
“He probably just fell down … again.”
“She must be exaggerating.”
But we know in our hearts that it is our business and that we have a fundamental obligation to do something about it.
In many cases, we are the last hope some children will ever have.