Children at growing risk of predators

October 08, 1997|By Carl T. Rowan

WASHINGTON -- An 11-year-old boy in New Jersey, who was selling candy door-to-door to raise money for his school, is sexually assaulted and murdered.

A couple in Kentucky is accused of letting their children starve after taking out insurance policies on them.

Prosecutors in Illinois have asked a grand jury to indict for murder a woman whose five babies all died before learning to walk -- deaths she blamed on SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

A baby sitter in Oregon is accused of murdering the child in his care. A man here who claims his girlfriend's baby died in a bathtub accident is accused of beating the infant to death.

Residents of two nearby counties in Virginia still live in fear after three schoolgirls were abducted and murdered.

Police arrest a teacher in suburban Maryland on charges that he was having sex with some of his pupils.

None of these stories got anywhere near the publicity given to the murder of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado, but they are all part of a terrible American plague of wanton assaults on children.

These stories tell us that a child may face a terrible attack, a rape or death at home, at school, on the playground, in a day-care facility -- just about anywhere.

I don't recall any generation before this when American young people were so imperiled by savage violence. So the question arises: What has happened in this society?

Some of the cases of child murders suggest that the pervasive use of illicit drugs is a big factor. Since there are now signs that we can never end the American curse of drug abuse, we probably will have to live -- or die -- with this consequence.

Sexual madness also seems to be a factor in a colossal amount of the abuse and murders of children. Why is this so commonplace now when it was relatively rare 60 years ago?

I have friends who say that this is the price we pay for making sex the prime ingredient in our movies, television shows and advertisements of almost everything from soap to sunglasses.

They say that not just imbalanced "copycats" but everyone is adversely affected when we make sex and violence the entertainment commodities for which we spend billions of dollars annually.

I can't refute this argument, even though I fear that embracing it could lead to stifling, spirit-crushing restrictions and censorships. But these assaults on our children constitute a powerful appeal to those who provide our entertainment to consider the sequences of what they produce.

I don't pretend to know all the other reasons why this society has become so flagrantly violent, especially against children.

There isn't a community in America that has enough social services and people working to protect and rescue children from the worst dangers. We ought to do something about it.

Carl T. Rowan writes a syndicated column.

Pub Date: 10/08/97

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