By Sean Cruz
Portland, Oregon--Parents who murder their own children shock us to the core, and cases of children abducted by strangers frighten us, move us to watch our children ever more closely. Children abducted by strangers are almost always murdered.
Both types of cases generate headlines, the shock and fright so central to who we are as human beings, the crimes so heinous, so alien to our souls, that they cut through all of the distractions, push even the news of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the inner pages or behind the weathercast.
Recently, in the Portland Metro area alone, a mother threw her two small children off the Sellwood Bridge, drowning her son, a father in Hillsboro murdered his two children with a handgun, then turned it on himself, and a couple chose to watch their child suffer and die rather than seek the medical attention that would have saved her life.
These are parents—criminal parents—but they are by far not the only ones who use their position and power as parents to commit crimes against their own children.
Children are far more likely to be kidnapped by one of their parents than by a stranger, but those cases rarely generate interest from either the media or law enforcement.
Among the approximately 200,000 reports of child abductions that take place across the US each year, only about 100 are by strangers, by persons unknown to (you) or (your) child. The rest are by parents and other family members, and they all damage the child(ren).
We are all busy people, and if the media and the police don’t recognize a problem, don’t see a crisis situation unfolding in a particular case of a missing child, then no one else will, either.
“Experts say there is a perception among the public and law enforcement that children kidnapped by their parents are not endangered. After all, figures from the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention show that only 4 percent of children abducted by their parents are physically harmed.”
See ABC News: The most dangerous kidnappers: parents
Some parents commit murder; some kill their children through criminal neglect; far too many others take their (your) child and disappear.
Children are most at risk of a parental or family abduction within the first five years following a divorce or separation.
My four children disappeared from Oregon 14 years ago in a kidnapping noted in The Oregonian’s August 1996 editorial “Say Yes for Kids”, published seven months after my kids were abducted. It was the only media attention the case ever generated, and it prompted no response from the police or from anyone else.
My son Aaron died later, essentially from long-term medical neglect, heartbreak and abandonment, alone in an empty house in Payson, Utah, where his mother had taken him and then left him behind.
The Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 1041 (Aaron’s Law) in 2005, shortly after I buried my son, his arms covered with the scars of self-inflicted knife wounds, cuts he made in the months following the abduction, when he was largely under the control of Kory Wright, a Mormon zealot carrying out an old-fashioned Mormon shunning, which was the primary motive for the kidnapping.
Aaron’s Law is a landmark bill, first-in-the-nation legislation, providing both victims and Oregon courts more tools to resolve and prevent child abduction, recognizing the emotional and psychological harm that child victims suffer when kidnapped by persons they love and trust.
One of Aaron’s Law’s most important clauses authorizes the court to order counseling sessions directed at educating the parents to the harm that their conduct is inflicting on their own children.
Most parents understand the difference between what is harmful and what is not and can be fairly objective about it, but every now and then something like the Sellwood case or the Worthington case or the Hillsboro case surfaces and we are reminded that this fundamental essence of our humanity cannot be completely taken for granted.
It is far more common for a parent to kidnap a child than to commit murder, but both actions have permanent consequences.
If your ex kidnaps your child, you can expect to be utterly on your own. No one will help you look for or recover your child.
Time will pass, you will hear (or it will be unsaid) “Geez, that was years ago. You ought to move on….”
Eventually, people will forget you ever had a child.
Coming next: Child abduction wisdom, pt 4: Parental kidnappings increasing, up 70%
Sean Cruz writes Blogolitical Sean at www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com, and Oregon’s Aaron’s Law: Stop Parental Abductions at www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com