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Party a reminder all kids aren't so lucky

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Sophie had a birthday party.

She invited her friends. Her friends brought their parents. That makes sense -- she and most of her friends are only 3 years old. Some grandparents were there. A good time was enjoyed by all.

The main attraction was something the kids referred to as a "jumpy." Jim LeMons of Monroe and his son Evan arrived in a pickup truck and trailer pulling an inflatable apparatus called a "space walk." It had protective safety netting that surrounded an inflatable base. He plugged in an electrical cord, and -- presto! -- we had an enormous princess castle that provided several energized kids a venue to bounce and laugh and squeal with delight in the dwindling heat of a late Sunday afternoon.

Kids having fun. A simple time in a peaceful setting. Parents and grandparents commingling and socializing. Children laughing and chirruping. Indeed, a good time was enjoyed by all.

The kids couldn't wait to try out the jumpy. They shucked their shoes and crawled into the contraption. Nonstop jumping, laughing, and sweating began. After expending energy for an hour or so, with intermittent breaks for drinks from their sippy cups, they gradually slowed down and enjoyed pizza and birthday cupcakes. Before long it was back to the jumpy.

Jump and bounce some more. Pause for a bite of pizza. Jump some more. Get a sip of water and jump again. Going to bed early was the reward that was forecast by all parents. Nothing like happy kids, but as the scene played out under big oak trees with a gentle fall breeze, there was the reality that all kids don't have it so good.

Children are so vulnerable -- innocent and defenseless. National child abuse statistics are alarming. Almost five children in America die from child abuse and neglect every day. The graph has been on the incline since 1995. Just one case is too many.

These are sobering statistics that should trouble us all:

* A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.

* 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way; 68 percent are abused by family members.

* 31 percent of women in prison in the U.S. were abused as children.

* 14 percent of all men in prison were abused as children.

* Of the five children who die every day, more than three of four are under the age of four.

I cannot imagine anyone striking a child in anger. A spouse either. Every time I ever got frustrated with my kids when they were growing up, I regretted having to discipline them. You knew that it was best for them, but confrontation with your children is never something you want to experience.

Unfortunately, most victims of child abuse go on to repeat the cycle. However, there are exceptions. Like a man named Bill Petty from Cohutta, in the North Georgia mountains. His father beat him severely as a boy growing up. When the funeral for his dad was over, Bill spat on the casket.

Petty became an Army Ranger, one of those who climbed the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc at Normandy and survived, a genuine World War II hero who held great contempt for survivors of the war who engaged in breast beating as a result of their "accomplishment." He considered that an affront to those who were left behind on the beaches.

Although I don't know how it came about, after the war he wound living in upstate New York, working as a counselor for a camp for underprivileged children. A victim of child abuse, he wanted to do something to make kids happy.

You know the Biblical reference about abusing children. It would be better that abusers had a millstone tied around their necks and thrown into the sea.

Sophie and her friends don't have to worry about child abuse, but they and the rest of society will often need to be protected from those who are its victims.

Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at loransmithathens@bellsouth.net.