Pilot Editorial

Monday, April 22, 2002

Child abuse and Storm Lake

This week, we published one of those Iowa Sex Offender Registry notifications that the state wisely puts out. In checking a

little further, we see the state has three convicted child sex abusers considered at risk to offend again living in Storm Lake alone.

On a much too regular a basis, we hear the news from local police of children hurt by those they trust the most. A child tied up by a parent, a child whipped with a belt soaked in water to make it hurt a little more, kids left in an area meth lab house taken into protective care, and on and on.

Even in a time when cases like the deadly abuse of toddler Shelby Duis have supposedly enlightened us and improved DHS response, the numbers are daunting.

Storm Lake Police saw 32 child abuse cases in 2001, a dozen more already this year. And this should stun you - 232 children have suffered in child abuse situations police have investigated in Storm Lake in the past decade.

The Light of Hope candlelight vigil against child abuse was held recently in Storm Lake, just seven blocks from the place the never-solved "Baby Doe" case saw a toddler left to die in a closet in 1995.

They aren't statistics, they are children.

At the candlelight vigil, child-size cardboard cutouts were put out representing all the children in Iowa who died as a result of child abuse, as the list of names and tortures was read off. Five siblings bludgeoned to death in Sioux City, an unwanted child burned and left in a field near Chelsea, and on and on.

Whatever we have tried to do, it hasn't worked. We have preached to the choir, but we haven't reached the people we need to change. Children are still being killed, beaten, sexually assaulted, tortured, neglected and denied necessary medical care.

Even in our beautiful, placid little community, the dirty little secrets are there. So are the problems that we don't like to admit exist.

What is missing? Parent education? Support systems or counseling? Adequate human services coverage? Communication? Diagnosis of mental problems? A commitment by the general public not to be willing to look the other way any longer? Maybe a little of all the above?

We recently published the Family Guide to Prevent Child Abuse, with tips on recognizing abuse, preventing it, and how to seek help. We've done it for a few years now, and if it helps to save even one child from being hurt, it's worth the effort and then some.

What we really look forward to is the day we simply don't need that publication in Storm Lake any more, because the painful statistics have gone away. Is it impossible to stop the abuse of our children? We hope no one thinks so.

We would rather see that publication die a natural death than ever bury another innocent child.