Who is the Perp?

infographicWho commits child abuse?

This is often the scariest part of our CASA training, I believe. Its not the phone call of little Lisa, who calls the police to tell them that her stepdad is hurting her mommy. (You can listen to Lisa’s 911 call here, but be warned that it is a disturbing real life moment.) More disturbing is that Lisa was never removed from her mother’s care, although DCFS visited the family an approximate 23 times. Lisa was found years later, in adulthood, by a concerned advocate. This person simply wanted to know whatever happened to the smart and scared little girl on the phone. The advocate found Lisa, now the victim in her own abusive romance. Lisa reached out for and got help after being found. She writes of her situation-

“I had started to realize that the pattern of our relationship was not going to change. I knew the relationship was getting worse. He was going to keep me isolated in our room, beat me when I questioned him and unconvincingly apologize when he felt I had suffered enough. The week leading up to our split was riddled with violence. I had been sleeping in a separate bedroom and could feel the tension building. I am sure if I had not left; I would have condemned myself to death and worse, left my children without a mother.”

To read her full self-written post click here.

Despite all that, its not the actual abuse that I think becomes the most unbelievable, scariest part to those new to the system. It’s who perpetrates such startling abuse. It’s the fact that, more often than not, a child’s own parents are their abusers. These are the people most trusted in a child’s life, with the most access, that are hurting them. It’s the people the chilren love and need the most.

Frankly, for most of us this takes a while to sink in. Most of us were raised by parents who fiercely protected us, who couldn’t imagine anyone causing us pain or suffering. We know this at CASA, despite all the cases we serve on, the vast majority of parents are good parents. Nearly all parents are doing their best to raise up their children with love and kindness. However, the vast majority is not everyone.

Statistics say that-

“Of child abuse cases in 2012, in over 80% of the cases the parent was the perpetrator.

In 2012, more than four-fifths (82.2%) of perpetrators were between the ages of 18 and 44 years while two-fifths (39.6%%) of perpetrators were in the 25-34 age group.

Of the 2012 child abuse cases, 45.3% of the perpetrators were male and 53.5% were female.”

To break that down, those stats indicate the the parents most likely to abuse have young, biological children in the home and were more likely to be mothers than fathers. Does this change the way you view child abuse?

Worse, a breakthrough study conducted in ’89, the first of its kind, found that 1/3 of abused children will grow up to hurt their own kids. In detail the overview said, “Studies also now indicate that about one-third of people who are abused in childhood will become abusers themselves. This is a lower percentage than many experts had expected, but obviously poses a major social challenge. The research also confirms that abuse in childhood increases the likelihood in adulthood of problems ranging from depression and alcoholism to sexual maladjustment and multiple personality.”

This isn’t that different than criminal behavior. Of this trend ABC News says-

Eye color and sense of humor can run in a family. So can crime.

The killings of two adolescent Oregon girls may be the latest example of how different generations in a family can make the same terrible decisions.

Ward Weaver III, 39, is the principal suspect in the deaths of Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis, whose bodies were found buried beneath a concrete slab and in a shed at Weaver’s home. He is jailed on charges of raping his son’s girlfriend, and has a past conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.

Weaver admitted on ABCNEWS’ Good Morning America he had failed a lie detector test, but denied involvement in the crime. His son Francis told police Weaver had confessed to raping and killing the girls.

Weaver’s Father on Death Row for Similar Crime

It is not the first time Weaver’s family has been associated with murder and sexual crime.

“They’re trying to make a ‘father and son’ connection here because my father has a severe history,” Weaver told Good Morning America in July.

Weaver’s father, Ward Weaver Jr., is on California’s Death Row for killing a young couple in 1981. The bodies were found under a freshly poured concrete slab behind his home.

He had also served time for rape and confessed to beating to death Robert Radford, 18, and raping and strangling the man’s fiancée, 23-year-old Barbara Levoy.

According to court records obtained by the Portland Oregonian, the elder Weaver buried Levoy’s body, then moved the remains to a hole behind his home. He forced his son Rodney, then 10 years old, to help dig the grave and cover it with concrete.

Ward Weaver III has yet to be charged in the deaths of Gaddis and Pond earlier this year, but criminologists say it is not surprising that crime may run in the family.

“It’s very clear that there’s a strong relation between violent behavior in parents and violent behavior in children,” said Alan Lipman, the director of the Center at Georgetown University for the Study of Violence.

Studies dating from the 1930s have shown a link between families’ criminal histories and the likelihood of running afoul of the law, and data from the nation’s federal prisons back this up.

Half of all juveniles in custody and 47 percent of state prison inmates have a close relative who has been incarcerated, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a research division of the Justice Department.

The figures are no surprise to those involved in the justice system.

Yet, abused children do not automatically grow up to be abusers. Recall that earlier statistic- that 1/3 of abused children will harm their own offspring. That means that 2/3 (the majority) do not grow up to abuse. One mitigating factor in this was said to be therapy or the encouragement of supportive friends and family members.

“One of the crucial differences between those abused children who go on to become abusers and those who do not, he said, is whether they have the insight that their parents were wrong to abuse them….”When you ask them if they were ever abused, they tell you, ‘No,’ ” Dr. Krugman said. ”But if you ask them to describe what would happen if they broke a rule, they’ll say something like, ‘I was locked in a closet for a day, then beaten with a belt until I was black and blue.’ Then you ask them, was that abuse? and their answer is, ‘No, I was a bad kid and my parents had to beat me to make me turn out okay.”


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