I've been thinking about … the unthinkable.
In the past couple of weeks, it's been hard not to think about abuse. We are bombarded from every outlet — print, television and social media — with the sordid details and we watch the rich, famous and powerful fling accusations at each other for knowing, not knowing, doing nothing, saying nothing, all attempting to get the focus off themselves and onto someone or something else.
If the focus is on all those terrible movie moguls, we can pretend we don't see it in front of us.
Well, what I'm thinking about are the 1,466 primary and secondary victims to intimate partner violence in one year, 2016, who live and receive services from Family and Children's Services in Carroll County.
I'll break that down for you: 106 children from birth to 11 years of age were abused in 2016, not by some self-important Hollywood producer, but by their own parents or caregivers; someone they had a right to trust and who had a real duty to care for them.
Let's talk about the 12- to 17-year-olds: 59 of them suffered documented abuse from the same hands as the little ones but now you have to include people of their own age who failed to learn respect for others from their parents and possibly people to whom their care had been entrusted. These were the reported cases. I cannot imagine that there weren't others.
On to the 137 18- to 24-year-olds who were abused in 2016. Now we are beginning to see all that wonderful spousal and parental modeling acted out in the next generation. If your parents threw things at each other or ended a "discussion" with physical or verbal abuse, that becomes "normal." We learn best what is modeled for us, right?
It goes on and on and on: 361 victims 25 to 35 years old, 430 36 to 45, 325 46 to 60 and 48 age 60 and older.
My God, what are we doing to ourselves? It is easy to point a righteous finger at sexual abuse and exploitation but what about the spouse or parent, male or female who withholds financial support, affection, approval or basic necessities of life from those who have a right to it, as a means of controlling behavior?
These are real numbers folks, in our own community. Family and Children's Services provides domestic violence shelters as well as senior services and counseling. There are other organizations such as the Department of Social Services the Bureau of Aging, Youth Services Bureau and Rape Crisis Intervention Services (RCIS) that can help too, but we as citizens must be aware as well. Some professions such as teachers and doctors have a duty to report suspected cases of abuse to the authorities but some go undetected and unreported because they are not recognized for what they are until it's too late.
Then we are all surprised that such a thing could happen here in our own backyard. Yeah, right.
Audrey Cimino is executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.