02 December 2010

Meet Zahra.

Are you familiar with Zahra Baker?  If not, let me introduce you to her.  10 years old, cute little freckles.

She's from Australia but moved to the US about 2 years ago.  Her mother gave her up when she was just a baby and her dad has raised her.  In the past five years she had bone cancer and tumors in her lungs.  She overcame both, but did lose part of her leg and part of her hearing.

What an amazing little girl!  Her friends and family in Australia said she did not want to move to the US.  But who could blame her?  I personally don't want to move to Australia-- it's a long way away!

Zahra is a bit famous around North Carolina now.  Not because of her amazing story, but because things went so far downhill so quickly after she moved to the US.

The details are horrifying.  Horrifying.  This amazing little girl isn't alive today.  Investigators still haven't quite been able to figure everything out.  But the bottom line is that having cancer was not the worst part of her life.

In reading various news reports, the neighbors of the family say they were scared that something like this may happen.  She was pulled out of public school, and they knew things weren't quite right at the house.  No one had seen her (other than family) for weeks before her disappearance.

I know we're in the Christmas season and no one wants to hear sad stories.  We want to think about jingle bells and cookies.  But imagine if you were this little girl.

Quick Stats:
-Nearly 4 children in the US die everyday as a result of child abuse or neglect
-About 1 in every 58 children were abused in 2006.

One in every 58.  Look around you.  Is there a child that you know that is a victim of abuse or neglect?  Most likely, the answer is 'yes.'  So what can you do about it?  Call the cops immediately?  Well, there are a few different ways to go about it.

Consider the situation - is it abuse or neglect?

With neglect, a lot of times it's just a matter of helping out.  If it's a single mom working double shifts at McDonalds, work out some playdates for her kids and yours after school so they don't have to sit and do their homework in the dark until mom gets home.  Or if her kids have a field trip at school, pay their way so she doesn't have to stress about the money.

But if it's abuse, understand that there are cycles and issues that go far beyond a confrontation and friendly advice.  In a perfect world, the abuser would be removed from the child's life for a time, all parties would get help through counseling, and then they would eventually be able to co-exist again in a healthy relationship.

However, it's usually not that easy.  Someone who abuses someone else (male, female, young, old, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse) has issues themselves.  They need to work through them.  They could have been a victim of abuse themselves.

So stop the cycle.  Get the child help.  And don't take 'no' for an answer.  Don't suspect and wonder.  Basically, imagine that you are on a never-ending episode of ABC's "What Would You Do."

When someone's counting on you, what will you do?  What will you do for someone who doesn't have a voice?  To keep them safe from what Zahra endured?

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