There’s an awful story behind each one of those 76 child-size wooden figures on the lawn behind the Person County jail.
They represent the children who were the victims of child abuse in Person County in 2018.
In one year. 76 children. That’s more than one child each week that suffers some calamity, whether its as heinous as being beaten or starved, or as peripheral as being in a house where a parent is using or selling drugs.
Regardless of the form child abuse takes, there’s no reason for it.
Those who abuse children are among the lowest of the low. It’s just that simple.
So how do we stop it? Psychologists, law enforcement officers and children advocates may all have different responses to that question. And, considered in a vacuum, those answers likely make a lot of sense.
But one lesson we all learn as children may be instructive here.
As children, we’re told not to put our hand on a hot stove. Whether its an act of rebellion or a mistake, we all eventually ignore that advice and put our hand on the hot stovetop.
The resulting burn is bad enough that we learn the lesson. Forever.
Put another way, if the penalty for doing a bad thing is severe enough – like burning your hand on the hot stovetop – we would avoid that behavior at all costs.
If convicted child abusers faced sure, swift, massive punishment for hurting a child, we suspect the number of incidents would drop dramatically.
We aren’t so naive as to think that it would eliminate every instance. After all, some people don’t believe fire will burn.
But we do believe a strong deterrent would radically change the number of wooden figures on the jailhouse lawn.
Sure, it will cost more to house child abusers for a longer period of time. But we believe the adminstration of justice is worth the price in dollars and cents. Over time, of course, the reduced number of people locked up for such a dimwitted offense would drop as well, lessening the drain on public resources.
There’s so much to be proud of in Person County. Those 76 silhouettes are not something worthy of our pride.