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Child Abuse: 'Shocking Crime'

February 26, 1989

Your enlightened editorial "The Shocking Crime" (Feb. 5), concerning child abuse and the death of Lisa Steinberg, is of great value. A minimum of once a week, in the Metro section you inform your readers of a case of child abuse shocking enough to be included as a crime which merits national interest and publication.

Your editorial and such articles are but the tip of the iceberg:

--A minimum of 30% to a maximum of 70% of children in the U.S. are sexually abused each year. (USC Law and Psychiatry)

--Over 40% of children in the U.S. are physically abused. (American Prosecutors Institute)

--Between 1980 and 1986 there was a 150% jump (over 1.5 million children) in abused or neglected children annually. (Child Protection Report, U.S. Government)

There is no legal definition of emotional child abuse, as that suffered by Lisa Steinberg's brother, whose memories and experiences are those of seeing, hearing and feeling a sadistic, severely mentally ill father, a mother so tortured that she lost her sense of self and the murder of his sister.

Yet, in its infinite wisdom, the state Legislature, in 1987, passed SB 243, sponsored by Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside), which was implemented in December, 1988, clearly shifting the child abuse laws from the protection of the child to protecting the parent(s) by stating that child abuse will only be considered for "serious physical harm," i.e. permanent disfigurement.

Forte Foundation, as one small, nonprofit, tax-exempt community clinic, treated 1,277 persons in 1988. Approximately 4% were child abusers; 95% of these child abusers were themselves abused as children.

The "healing effect" you hope for in parenting which values, respects and acknowledges the worth of our children, our future, is possible only when we recognize:

--The difference between discipline (derived from the word disciple--a follower of) and punishment (a penalty for an offense).

--The need to establish and enforce as many laws as necessary to protect children.

--The necessity to invest our time, concern and money in preventing future abuse through education and helping to heal the already abused.

--Violence is a learned behavior.

--We must begin in the home.

ELAINE GETHARD

Executive Director

Forte Foundation

Van Nuys

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