“Anna, Age Eight” — The Societal Pandemic of Child Abuse

By SUE BOLDE, Executive Director

The sad truth?

No one wants to talk about child sexual abuse. After all, why would we? It’s an awful, almost incomprehensible topic that we simply can’t imagine a child we love would ever have to endure.

Unfortunately, our society, in general, has virtually become numb to addressing this issue on any substantive scale that would actually move the needle. Over 700,000 children suffer some form of physical or sexual abuse or neglect each year. Additionally, it is estimated that 10% of all children will become victims of sexual abuse before they reach the age of 18.

These staggering statistics here in the US clearly indicate a societal issue of pandemic proportion.

Underscoring these alarming stats is new research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about the lifetime costs of child abuse and maltreatment here in the US. In its abstract released in September (full report to be released in December 2018), the CDC cites significant increases in societal costs resulting from child maltreatment. The methodology used in this research conducted between 2010 and 2015, now includes ancillary, indirect cost estimates, as well as the direct costs of services provided in both the investigation of alleged child abuse cases, as well as the intervention, prosecution and victim support services (including healthcare). Here’s what they found…

• The estimated lifetime cost per-victim of child maltreatment (non-fatal) increased from $210,012 (2010 USD) to $830,928 (2015 USD)… 296% increase!

• The estimated lifetime cost per-victim of child maltreatment (fatal) increased from $1.3 to $16.6 million… 1,100%+ increase!

• The estimated US population economic burden of child maltreatment based on 2015 substantiated incident cases is $428 billion, representing lifetime costs incurred annually.

• The estimated US population economic burden of child maltreatment based on 2015 investigated incident cases is $2 trillion, representing lifetime costs incurred annually… that equates to nearly 10% of our current national debt! 

Touted as, “the nation’s blueprint for ending the epidemic of childhood trauma, a book called,Anna, Age Eight: The Data-Driven Prevention of Child Trauma and Maltreatment, address ways in which we as a society can actually put the brakes on this rampant pandemic. The authors Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD, and Dominic Cappello, believe so strongly in making this information available that they offer their guide as a free downloadable pdf.

The book shares several stories of child abuse and trauma, including Anna’s story…

“…It was not so for Anna. In her eight years, she had racked up just as many episodes in the custody of her state’s child welfare system. Returned again to her very troubled mother, Cassandra, she celebrated a birthday with a few small toys and, we can only hope, some quantity of good cheer. If she did so, it would have been about the last high point she would ever know. A few days later, Cassandra and her boyfriend beat Anna to death in a drug-fueled, mental illness-influenced rage.”

Anna’s death was completely avoidable had simple technology been utilized to help child protection professionals collaborate and recognize the countless red flags in Anna’s short life. This book promotes the importance of utilizing technology to facilitate information sharing among those who can help step-in and protect vulnerable children.

The essential need to protect children and help ensure emotionally and physically healthy childhoods can no longer be dismissed or “left to someone else.” Need data? The CDC is offering it up to us in the form of a HUGE societal economic burden. But it just makes good sense… raising children in healthy, secure environments teaches them to live healthy, safe lives… and in turn, pass those traits on to their own children and families. The book eloquently and succinctly captures this concept…

“Emotionally healthy people who are treated well throughout life tend to treat others well, in an emotionally healthy way, but the opposite is also true. Whatever happened to those kids that we try not to think about – whenever it happened – it will brush off with every human interaction, and then some little piece of it will have happened to you, and to all of us.”

We have the power to stop this pandemic… let’s get to work.

About Sue ♥

Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Sue Bolde has a BA in psychology from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MA in art therapy from the University of Illinois. Her professional career includes clinical work with children and teens at the University of Chicago, graduate-level instruction with students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and certification as a Montessori teacher and yoga instructor. She is currently a teacher in training with Google’s Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute as well as a Michigan ACE Initiative trainer.

About Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center ♥

The nationally accredited Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center brings help, hope, and healing to child victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and violence. Our mission is to protect children by supporting multidisciplinary investigations into alleged cases of child abuse by conducting child forensic interviews in an environment that is child-sensitive, supportive and safe. We help heal child victims and their families through our in-house therapeutic services and offer prevention education throughout the region via our Team Zero program. As the Grand Traverse regional response center for the investigation of child abuse, we collaborate with multidisciplinary teams in six counties – Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, and Wexford – in addition to the Sovereign Nation of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. More than 1,700 children have been referred to the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center since our founding in 2010.