Strategies to prevent children from being abused take many forms. Proactive approaches attempt to prevent abuse from taking place. They range from screening potential child care workers to weed out known molesters, setting up help lines and crisis nurseries where parents can drop off their children if they feel they are about to lose control of their emotions, organizing Parents Anonymous support groups for abusers, and offering child-rearing courses for new parents (Irwin, 1980).

During the late 1990s, in response to stories in the news about abandoned babies, a social move- ment developed and successfully persuaded legisla- tors in Texas to pass the country’s first “safe haven law” in 1999. By 2009, every state had a similar Abandoned Infant Protection Act that allows par- ents to relinquish unwanted newborns with no questions asked to prevent infanticides (and neona- ticides within 24 hours of birth). The parents (who can remain anonymous if they want) will not risk criminal prosecution for neglect or abandonment if the infant (usually defined as less than 21 or 30 days old) is healthy, as determined by a doctor, and handed over to responsible adults at safe environ- ment sites like hospitals, police precincts, or firehouses. (Formally putting the baby up for adop- tion through an agency is preferred over following this emergency procedure, of course.) The effec- tiveness of this legislation is difficult to determine because few states keep records of the number of unwanted babies (some resulting from rapes) that are abandoned, dead or alive. Advocates believe the lives of well over 1,000 infants have been saved by these provisions. The governor of Illinois proclaimed April as Save Abandoned Babies Month

to promote awareness after an infant was found dead at a public location in 2014 (Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, 2014; and National Safe Haven Alliance, 2014). In Illinois, 69 unharmed babies were safely relinquished between 2001, when the law was enacted, and 2010. Unfortunately, an almost equal number (63) were illegally abandoned during those 10 years at churches, along roadways, and even in trash cans; 30 perished before they were discovered (McQueary, 2011). The existence of the law and the locations of the places prepared to receive newborns generally are not well publi- cized. In the New York City area, six discarded babies were found dead during 2006, twice as many as in the preceding year, even though the state’s safe haven law went into effect during 2000 (Buckley, 2007).

The problem of child maltreatment touches on many profound issues. Although proactive and pre- ventive strategies are as important as reactive crimi- nal justice responses, sharp differences of opinion surface over the proper role of government in the balance between social nurturance and social con- trol. In reply to the question, “Whose children are they?” one long-standing answer is that children belong to, or are the property of, their parents.

Another way of looking at youngsters is to see them as “junior” citizens: Parents have custody of them, but the larger community has “visiting rights.” In extreme cases, the community might even assert joint custody and violate the privacy of the family and the rights of parents. Government agencies step in as the parents of last resort when children face a clear and present danger. Yet in an age when the social conditions experienced by chil- dren are generally deteriorating (in the form of reduced parental involvement and support, increased exposure to violence, and persistent poverty during childhood in female-headed households), stepped- up efforts to criminalize the maltreatment of children might not do much to stem the growth of the prob- lem (Garbarino, 1989). On the other hand, the price for inaction or minimal reaction in the name of fam- ily preservation on the part of child protection agen- cies and family courts is heightened risks of serious injury or death.

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Besides the maltreatment of children by their parental caretakers, several other victim–offender relationships fall within the realm of physically abusing and sexually exploiting young people.

Sibling Abuse

Furious fights between siblings over possessions, demands for privacy, pecking orders, and parental attention are the subjects of Bible stories, plays, novels, movies, and family folklore. When brothers and sisters fight each other, their roughhousing is often dismissed as “kids will be kids” or disregarded as a normal expression of sibling rivalry. But this casual, ongoing, everyday violence usually ignored by parents can escalate to such levels of hostility that emotional scars and serious wounds are inflicted. Sons are more violent than daughters, and all-boy families are the most violent of all. The use of force to resolve quarrels breaks out more often between siblings than between parents or between parents and children. Older youths might not only physi- cally assault but also sexually abuse younger male and female siblings. The younger child generally does not tell anyone about the incidents for fear of being blamed, of not being believed, or of suf- fering reprisals. About one-third of all children are hit or attacked by a sibling each year, according to a survey of 2,000 children and their caretakers (see Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz, 1980; Wiehe, 1997; Caffaro and Caffaro, 1998; Butler, 2006; Krienert and Walsh, 2011; and Caspi, 2011).

Sibling-on-sibling violence stands out because it is the most frequent yet least studied type of assault, which evidently reflects the difference between the priorities of researchers and the con- cerns of youngsters. In terms of a typology of vic- timization during childhood, violence between siblings can be classified as pandemic, or occurring in the lives of a majority of children as they grow up. It is more common than the incidence of robbery, theft, vandalism of a possession, assault

by a peer, and physical punishment by a parent (Finkelhor and Leatherman, 1994; and O’Connor, 2013). Sibling abuse can set the stage for other expressions of violence. For example, victimized boys might grow up to become abusers of their dates during courtship (Simonelli et al., 2002).

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