April is designated as National Child Abuse Awareness Month. This week (April 19-25) is being observed as the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Our reservations are homes to countless victims of all ages. Sadly, not enough is being done to help keep victims safe. The corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic has exacerbated many dangerous environments in homes on both Rosebud and Pine Ridge.
Last week a concerned tribal citizen posted on social media about an alleged incident of child abuse she witnessed in Mission, SD. The alleged child abuse involved a little boy being knocked down on his face in view of everyone in front of Rosebud Exchange.
Apparently, a local police officer (who does not have jurisdiction over tribal citizens) was informed about the alleged abuse as the man and child were still walking along highway 18 in Mission. The police officer responded with “I’ll call someone.” The next part of the post on social media talks about a Rosebud tribal police unit pulling up and talking to the alleged child abuser. The police unit then appeared “to give him a ride home.” The tribal citizen has posted subsequent updates sharing concern about the safety of this child.
How are concerned tribal citizens expected to report crimes they witness when the police just pull up in their cars and give alleged child abusers a ride home? There’s no justice for victims on Rosebud; not for a child assaulted by an adult in broad daylight in front of witnesses. Our people continue to lose faith in law enforcement when they learn of these incidents where the alleged abuser faced zero consequence for his actions.
According to the Children’s Bureau of the US Department of Health & Human Services, “Each state has its own definitions of child abuse and neglect that are based on standards set by federal law. Federal legislation provides a foundation for states by identifying a set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), (P.L. 100–294), as amended by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111–320), retained the existing definition of child abuse and neglect as, at a minimum: Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
A 2018 report on the DHHS Children’s Bureau website states that “American Indian or Alaska Native children have the highest rate of victimization at 15.2 per 1,000 children in the population of the same race or ethnicity.”
Not only was this little boy physically abused, he was traumatized in front of witnesses. The trauma this little boy experiences is also reality for hundreds of Lakota children living on our reservations. We talk all the time about how sacred our children are, yet family members, law enforcement and social workers appear to do nothing to help. That is, the abuser was not arrested, instead he was given a ride home. No attempt was made to remove the child from the abusive adult.
It is up to all of us to report child abuse. The health of our unborn Lakota generations depends on every adult reporting these atrocities our children are suffering every single day.
Sadly, most of us know children suffering physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse. Abusive adults should be put in prison for the terrible crimes they commit against children. Consequently, as this boy grows older, he will abuse smaller children by inflicting on them the same abuse that he now suffers.
He will keep inter-generational trauma alive.
Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email firstname.lastname@example.org