Hold your applause Rosie O’Donnell

Rosie O’Donnell and I had a brief Twitter exchange yesterday in response to this video (Warning: The language in the video is abrasive):

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Rosie tweeted that she loved the guy behind the camera. The one videotaping Anthony Sanchez, a California Irrigation Official, whipping his son for what news officials are reporting as “failing to catch the ball.”

I don’t know for sure if Sanchez was spanking the boy for not catching the ball or because the boy was mouthing off to him. Either way, it’s obvious that Sanchez is frustrated and angry when he belts the child.

Given that I’ve just come off a book tour urging people to speak out whenever they suspect child abuse, I applaud the neighbor for speaking out on that boy’s behalf. No child should ever be spanked as a result of anger. And if it’s true that Sanchez spanked his step-son for failing to catch a ball, well, then he earned the verbal lashing he has received.

What I have trouble with is the felony child abuse charge possibly pending against Sanchez. I suspect it is more likely a result of media attention than actual felony offense.

I responded to Rosie O’ Donnell by Tweeting back: Yes. But how hypocritical of media to get up in arms about this when 5 children a day are dying from much more severe abuse. #lame.

To which, she said: How great that it aired at all. I love that guy behind the camera.

Rosie raises an important issue — How great is it that it aired at all?

What lesson was learned by the general public from this?

Did any of those news reports include the statistics on child abuse? Did they bother to mention that over the past 10 years — the length of time we’ve been at war in Iraq & Afghanistan — we’ve lost 20, 000 children to child abuse? Four times the number of American soldiers killed in action?  And that eighty percent of those deaths happened to children ages 4 and under?

Did reporters bother to localize the story to find out how many children in their own neighborhoods have suffered abuse in the past year? Did they contact anyone at the National Childrens Alliance to talk about the fact that the US has the highest child abuse fatality rate in the industrialized world?

Did those same reporters who were filing this as a nationwide headline story bother to consider that Congress designates more money on military recruiting at NASCAR events than in child abuse protection?

And where are the investigative reports looking at how abysmal our court system is at holding Children Welfare (DHS) accountable?

Consider this troubling finding regarding Michigan’s court system:  “Forty percent of judges admitted that they lied,  and said DHS had made  “reasonable efforts” in  cases where the judges  really didn’t believe it.”

Those judges admitted that they lied because if they failed to check the box, the county would lose important federal funding.

The Department of Human Services, by their own admission, says only 40 percent of abused children are getting help. That’s a 60 percent failure rate.

That’s why when you read those stories of a child’s death, like the one I wrote about in A Silence of Mockingbirds, the death is almost always the result of “Systematic failure.”

The kind of child abuse that leads to the death of a 3-year old is rarely as titillating as a someone with an iPhone capturing a neighbor spanking a child. In fact, as was the case with Karly Sheehan, the abuse that leads to a child’s death is most often done in secret.

So hold your applause, Rosie O’Donnell, and spare this old shoe-leather journalist the media outrage.

When the national media desks begin reporting thoughtful and investigative work on child abuse with the same fervor that it does war in Iraq and Afghanistan,  and when the public demands an overhaul of the corrupt system that is failing children and contributing to their unnecessary and often brutal deaths, that’s when you will hear me shouting from the Amen section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • http://www.jennyraearmstrong.com/2012/06/12/rape-drugs-roadside-stands-and-human-trafficking-there-are-no-innocent-bystanders/ Tim

    “The kind of child abuse that leads to the death of a 3-year old is rarely as titillating as a someone with an iPhone capturing a neighbor spanking a child.”

    Gets me too, Karen. I wonder why some cases in my courtroom get big media attention, while others that have horrific details of abuse and oppression are passed over.

    Tim

    P.S. I’ve had county offices try to get me to do certain things because it affects their funding. I tell them to stick it in their ears. It comes out in more judgelike language, of course, but the message is clear: my rulings are my rulings, based on the law and the evidence, despite how it may affect some agency collaterally. Not every state has a judiciary like the one you cite above.

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      Tim: I think anyone who has been in the courtrooms of America and heard some of the stories you and I have heard would question this whole media frenzy. Of course, you and I both know someone like Shawn Field would come across on YouTube as a perfectly respectable fellow. I think this sort of journalism only makes the viewing public feel self-righteous about child abuse. Better journalism could take this story and really educate the masses…

      And, yes, I know the Michigan issue isn’t reflective of every judge’s courtroom. Thankfully.

      • http://www.jennyraearmstrong.com/2012/06/12/rape-drugs-roadside-stands-and-human-trafficking-there-are-no-innocent-bystanders/ Tim

        You know, if traditional media won’t cover it responsibly then it’s up to new media. You’re doing your part in both realms, Karen, here at your blog and with your book, and you’re doing it quite well.

  • Ralph

    Ralph

    And the Government spends 3 Billion $ every mo. on the Wars!!!!!!!!!1

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      Yep.

  • Nancy

    I don’t think you get it, Karen, and I think you’re using Rosie O’Donnell for your own 15 minutes of fame. You say, “But how hypocritical of media to get up in arms about this when 5 children a day are dying from much more severe abuse.” Much more severe abuse?? How do you know? If what we witnessed is a man belting his kid because he missed a ball, then I can only imagine what happens behind closed doors. It’s our responsibility as members of this society to protect our children. Rosie O’Donnell’s tweet did just that — she reminded us that we, too, can make a difference in the life of a child. She reminded us that that videoing man was a hero for speaking up. (Honestly, I thought he should have done more. I thought he should have reported this to police immediately.) So should the public figures out there “hold their applause” until something bigger comes along? The fact is that people rarely witness the final victimization that leads to the death of a child — by speaking out when we witness something small, we will save those children from a much worse fate when the doors are closed. That man on the video beating his stepson was an abuser — and that child could have turned into a statistic. Why are you trying to play judge about what victimization is severe enough to publicize?

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      Nancy: Thanks for adding your observations to this discussion. Re: your remark of using Rosie for 15 mins of fame. I’m not interested in fame. What I’m interested in is education and advocacy. I find the best way to do that is through discussions like the one we are having now.
      As I stated in the essay above, I think Rosie raised an important question — one that I think bears contemplation — which is How great is it that this aired?
      As someone who teaches journalism, I have my concerns. This sort of YouTube journalism troubles me for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is it creates lazy journalists and mob mentality.
      I don’t find it to be very educational or helpful. I’m glad the neighbor stepped in and said something. Certainly more neighbors need to get involved. We all do, if we have any intention of stopping the epidemic of child abuse that plagues this nation.

      • Nancy

        I understand what you’re saying — and I don’t disagree. I find it particularly disturbing that this guy with the camera (if I’m understanding this correctly) posted this to YouTube instead of calling the police to report what he’d seen (and to tell the police that he had a video). But I think your message gets muddied by your focus on Rosie O’Donnell who is *not* a journalist. She’s a celebrity who tweets mostly personal stuff — her girlfriend in the hospital, photos of her kids, etc. So the fact that she tweeted praise for the videographer doesn’t feel like an appropriate launching pad for your discussion of YouTube journalism. The fact is that this is newsworthy — we rarely get such a glimpse into this kind of abuse, and I think it brings attention to the fact that these sorts of things are going on every second of every day, and children are suffering. Do I think it should have aired on YouTube first? No. But I am glad that people are seeing it. Maybe we’ll all know what to do the next time we see something like this in our own neighborhood.

        • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

          It is very disturbing that he took the time to post to YouTube before calling police. Rosie only became the launching pad because of her tweet about loving this guy. What she meant is that she loved his willingness to hold the neighbor accountable. I’ve just come off a book tour (A Silence of Mockingbirds) talking about this very issue, as it relates to the murder of a 3-year-old whose torture was explained away by a slew of professionals because Mom was lying the entire time. A common occurrence. So my perspective is embedded in a whole different reality… where children are tortured and beaten to death while moms often take a complicit role in their murder. You should read the mail I’ve been getting about how common this is…

  • Candy Pfau

    Amen to everything you said. I have been screaming and yelling about this forever. Every day another child is dead under age 6. I guess after age 7 or 8 its harder to kill them secretly.
    And sickening how many people lose custody of five and six children and continue to procreate and have more babies. The children have no voice. Lets be like China and license childbirth. At least make it harder to have babies.

  • Robie

    “When the national media desks begin reporting thoughtful and investigative work on child abuse with the same fervor that it does war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and when the public demands an overhaul of the corrupt system that is failing children and contributing to their unnecessary and often brutal deaths, that’s when you will hear me shouting from the Amen section.”
    Amen…Amen….Amen….well said…. I’m over the all the pandering that happens within the news media today.

    I find todays news media disappointing period…it doesn’t seem to be about ‘news’ anymore…. I am not interesting in who Kim Kardadiasn is dating (sorry spelling is wrong)…


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