By Danielle Ellison of Medford, Oregon
How do we value the life of a child? How do you put a price on Christmas morning, the first day of school, snow angels in the winter, cannonballs in the summer, and high school graduation?
I ask because my son was nearly robbed of these memorable childhood moments. On Sept. 22, 2014, my life changed forever. Horrible abuse had been taking place in my absence, and on that fateful day in September a bright light was shed on a dark issue.
My 3-month-old son was a victim of child abuse, more specifically shaken baby syndrome. His future is unclear, and each day I awake wondering if today is the day that will unveil permanent damage, left behind by the brain injury inflicted by his abuser.
Many other children have not been as fortunate as my son; children left devastated, fighting fearlessly to overcome, to heal, to live. When they do live, they are often left blind, deaf, unable to walk or attached to feeding tubes. Many are left plagued with seizures, impaired motor skills, impaired speech and cognitive disabilities.
While these children are suffering, trying to find the silver lining of this dark cloud, the ones responsible are minimally punished. All too often, the ones who are shattering our youth are serving minimum sentences for inflicting maximum pain, and frequently permanent damage.
These are atrocious crimes, committed against the most defenseless victims. Any bail amount is intolerable. After searching the inmate list of the Jackson County Jail, and comparing bail amounts of different cases, I was left confused and disappointed. How is it that a person can nearly kill an innocent, defenseless infant and his bail be set at an amount that is three times lower than that of a person being charged with a robbery where no one was injured?
What kind of message does that send? To me, it sends a message that says material objects as a whole are more valuable than the life and future of a child.
No amount of money will erase cerebral palsy. It will never give the sight of the sun setting to that child left blind, or the sound of the rain falling to that child left deaf. Our children are our most valuable blessings. When are we going to start protecting them?
These crimes are crippling our youth. Yet, the culprits responsible often are walking away with a slap on the wrist. A few years ago, a 5-week-old baby girl was severely abused at the hands of her own father. She was violently shaken on numerous occasions. She was left severely brain damaged, and her development halted, leaving her 5 weeks old forever.
She fought like a warrior for nine years, and then, 10 days short of her 10th birthday, she passed. Her abuser was found incompetent to stand trial because he had a low IQ. This man held down a job, drove a car and lived a normal adult life. Justice was never served for this innocent child.
In another instance, nearly two years ago a 2-month-old boy’s life was changed forever. This infant, at the most defenseless time in his life, was strangled, shaken and beaten. These attacks caused severe brain bleeding and 25 fractured bones all over his body.
Now nearing his second birthday, this child should be learning his ABCs, potty training and jumping on his mommy’s bed. Instead he is plagued with seizures, and developmental delays. He is unable to sit up on his own, and has been diagnosed with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. A young life was devastated before it began to flourish, and somehow, some way, three years seemed an appropriate sentence for his abuser. I cannot ignore that.
Both of these examples are of local children, and they only scratch the surface. There are many more. Our children deserve the right to experience the simple joys in life, not just its sorrows.
I am a single mother of two boys and understand that there are moments in parenting where you feel like crossing that line out of frustration, but you just can’t do it. My question is, when are the consequences of these actions going to be substantial enough to force caregivers to walk away in those moments of frustration? When are we going to say “no more?” These are not cases of two adults fighting, or vengeance being sought. This is innocence in its purest form, being destroyed.