Last year in Louisville, 14 children younger than 18 were murdered, their lives spent accidentally or intentionally. That’s a higher number than in any of the past 12 years in a city where since 2006, 87 children have been murdered – 12 of them younger than nine.
These are not statistics to be touted or proud of. Instead, they are grim facts that warrant conversation and debate in all communities – faith, professional, human services, law enforcement, the courts and government.
There’s no cure-all solution, but there must be greater emphasis and effort on our one true task as adults – to create a safe space to raise our children.
Firearms accounted for many of the deaths, and children of color were disproportionally affected. Of the 14 murdered children in Louisville, eight were black boys or girls.
Some of them died accidentally, such as a 7-year-old boy struck by an errant bullet that passed through the walls of his house. He was sitting at his kitchen table reading his tablet when he was shot. Other children were killed by caretakers, parents, guardians, or others close to them.
In each case there was significant, long-lasting impact.
It may begin with emotional impact – the loss of any loved one is significant, but ever more so in the loss of a child. There often is survivor’s guilt – a parent or family member or friend agonizing over whether anything could have been done to protect or save the child.
Especially in cases of the murder of a young person, there often is rage, a desire for revenge too often spurring even more death and damage. Then there is the need for justice – for someone to pay for the crime, to be held accountable and punished.
There is financial impact as well, beginning with medical bills or funeral costs. Atop that are systemic costs – police investigations and prosecutions, the purchase of greater technology to help prevent or detect violence, and societal impact, a growing fear and concern about safety due to the increased violence seen community wide.
Then there is the inevitable tendency of some to want to take the law into their own hands to provide for their own and their children’s protection, which often results in even more violence and heartbreak.
Along with all of this, with these lost children, there is lost opportunity. Any one of them could have grown up to make a difference in medicine, science, industry, education, or the humanities.
We mourn these children, but as an organization that focuses on preventing, stopping and healing child violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect, we – all of us – must do more to prevent and reduce violence against children. The loss of a single child to murder is unacceptable; losing 14 is abominable.
For 2018 and beyond, commit to join us to help ensure protecting children is more than a talking point, that there is effort, action, and intention behind it and children from every ZIP code equally are protected.