Child abuse is rarely about monsters and villains, but parents with poor child rearing skills who progressively spiral out of control. Many child abuse deaths arise out of abusive punishments taken too far. the testimony given in an Arizona trial this week is a tragic testament to this.
Ame Deal was a 10-year-old girl who met her end in a most unimaginable way. It seems that when Amy misbehaved, her legal guardians, had a rather sadistic way of punishing her: they would lock her inside a storage box for hours at a time. When I say box, you probably think something along the lines of a large crate or as small closet. Actually, it was more like a large tackle box–perhaps 3 feet long, 14″ wide, and 12″ high. Something approximately the size of a portable cat carrier, only without the screen. Her sister says that Amy would complain that her shoulders and joints hurt afterward. I can only imagine.
Inevitably, her guardians pushed this barbaric discipline to a deadly extreme. Amy was locked inside the box and placed outside on a hot day, where she inevitably succumbed to the Arizona heat–trapped, alone, and suffering in a hot, dark place that no child should ever be in. So what was the infraction that earned this girl the death penalty? Amy had taken a Popsicle when she shouldn’t have. And for that, her parents inflicted the punishment that would ultimately lead to her death.
The senselessness of tragedies such as this never cease to disturb me. A young girl dead, her parents no doubt headed off to prison, a family destroyed, and her siblings thrust into the trauma of foster care. And it all boils down to the simple fact that parents and care-givers, most of whom are more or less alone in their own little world, struggle to manage a child in a place where the communal support for child rearing that would have prevented such tragedy in the past has been severely eroded. It’s a tragic story and and equally tragic outcome in which nobody wins. I just wish society spent half as much time, attention, and resources on addressing the root of the problem as they do condemning and incarcerating people after-the-fact.