Different reactions to abuse stories curious

Published 12:01 am Sunday, December 10, 2017

News tends to come by either eyedropper or fire hose. Last week was certainly on the fire hose end of the spectrum with news coming at a fast pace.

Almost lost in the sea of local news was something I noticed about the community’s collective reaction to some news and how that reaction could underscore some of our deepest problems.

Sadly, the week started out with no less than three people being charged with some form of child abuse.

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Some of the details of what the accused allegedly did are truly sickening.

More interesting to me is the reaction people had to the allegations — or didn’t have.

As awful as the child abuse cases were, those stories seemed to have had far less reaction than last month’s discovery of an alleged dogfighting ring in the county.

That should make us stop and think a little bit.

While I love dogs as much as the next guy, something in our society has become more than a little warped when the community gets more up in arms over abuse to dogs than abuse to little people.

Humans, in my book, should always trump animals.

Animal abuse and child abuse are both horrible, and if the alleged perpetrators are found to be guilty, hopefully, the judicial system will throw the proverbial book at the whole lot of them.

After the dogfighting bust, that was all locals were talking about for days. Local residents as well as people across the state, region, nation and globe organized and raised tens of thousands of dollars for the dogs’ care.

It was a great outpouring of affections for the animals dubbed man’s best friends.

The event was such a big deal that television stations from around the region covered the saga. National TV morning news shows called the sheriff to check on the dogs and report the awful situation in which they were found.

But last week’s allegations of child abuse were not widely covered outside of our area.

National television news personnel were not concerned.

That sad fact hurts.

All too often, most of us don’t want to face the ugly truth about child abuse and other domestic violence.

We all know such things happen all too often, but we’d simply rather not focus on it.

Agreeing that someone who chained up dozens of dogs was up to no good seems easy, but who are we to question someone’s child discipline habits?

Law enforcement has a clear guideline to help define abuse.

Most of the rest of us go on gut, and often our gut tells us to look the other way.

Several years ago a public service announcement on TV cut to the heart of the problem. It featured a lady entering an elevator that was occupied by a man and a young girl. They exchange a few pleasantries before the elevator door opens and the man and the girl exit.

On the back of the man’s jacket is “Child Abuser” before the announcer’s voice says, “If only child abuse were this easy to recognize. If you even suspect abuse call 1-800-4-A-CHILD. All calls are anonymous and confidential. Trust your instincts.”

The message in the commercial remains powerful even after all of these years.

In many child abuse and domestic violence cases the abuse isn’t an isolated incident, but an ongoing pattern. Often, someone near the situation may have suspicions about what’s going on and perhaps doesn’t speak up soon enough to help.

Perhaps if more of us get a little nosy and raise flags early enough, we can stop some of the abuse before it becomes a headline.
Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.