Child Abuse Is The Social Justice Issue We’ve All Been Overlooking

I listened to a podcast today that talked about how, in the Bible, there is no concept of separate justice issues. There is only JUSTICE and INJUSTICE. Preach! 

When you start talking about injustice, child abuse doesn’t really jump to the forefront of your mind. Because it hides in plain sight, and like a deadly bacteria that works its way deep into the crevices of your body, child abuse is an insidious destroyer of a sense of self.

And maybe that doesn’t sound so bad to you…but consider this…

  • Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of over 47,000 people.
  • Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54.
  • There were more than twice as many suicides (47,173) in the United States as there were homicides (19,510).

Just to give you an idea, “unintentional injury” is the leading cause of death for ages 10-34. Which means that INTENTIONAL INJURY is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34. 

Estimates suggest that only half of those who suffer with mental illness receive treatment…and the numbers of those who receive adequate treatment…there are no numbers for that.

  • 7.1% of all US adults had a major depressive episode last year
  • PTSD is 4 times more common in young girls than young boys
  • Ever year, 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States – that is 60 thousand per state, and approximately 165 reports of child abuser PER STATE, PER DAY!! 
  • 28.3% of adults report being physically abused
  • 20% of adults report being sexually abused

FACT: Childhood maltreatment has been linked to everything from diabetes to cancer (second leading cause of death in the United States) to migraines, unexplained rashes and immune responses.

FACT: The emerging field of Epigenetics has discovered links to various physical and psychological disorders, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, immune disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression within individuals who report being mistreated as children.

FACT: The World Health Organization estimates that depression is the LEADING CAUSE of disability worldwide, and is a “major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.”

And it’s not just the global “burden of disease” that is affected. Society as a whole is affected…in both direct costs (e.g., hospitalizations, foster care payments) and indirect costs (e.g., long-term care, lost productivity at school, juvenile and criminal justice systems costs). 

The Centers for Disease Control appraised the annual cost of nonfatal child maltreatment in the United States to be $428 billion (based on the number of substantiated cases of nonfatal maltreatment) or $2 trillion (based on the number of investigated instances of nonfatal maltreatment). 

The fact that word “non-fatal” needs to be used in reference to children suffering at the hands of adults is nauseating and maddening at best. 

FACT: Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violent crimes.

FACT: About 80% of 21-year-olds who were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder. 


14% of all men and 36% of all women in prison were abused as children.

Abused children are also less likely to practice safe sex, putting them at greater risk for STDs. And they are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy, which only serves to muddle the already muddy waters of these dysfunctional family dynamics, and often means that Grandparents, who’ve already established themselves as “abusive” have a hand in raising up a second generation of children who suffer the same mistreatments their parents did. 

And teen pregnancy is not consistent across the board, although we do have the highest teen pregnancy rate of all developed nations. The most prolific teen pregnancies occur in American teens who are either Native or Hispanic. These young women have pregnancy rates that are 2 and 3 times HIGHER than their peers. 


The leading causes of drug and alcohol addiction are genetics (and epigenetics), the environment the individual grows up in (home and community), and pre-existing mental health disorders. Environment is a MAJOR contributor to all these scenarios, and what environment has consistently shown to influence us over any other? Our families.

Do you see a pattern here? It all starts somewhere…

Now, I’m not naive enough to say that our mental health and addiction EPIDEMICS are solely caused by Child Abuse…but there is an obvious correlation here that NEEDS to be addressed. 

In my family, I have seen this pattern play out in tangible ways. Eating disorders, severe depression, nightmares, unexplained rashes and immune responses, chronic migraines, debilitating shame, teen pregnancy, self harm, abortion, sexual abuse, panic attacks and chronic lying, drug addiction and alcohol abuse.

What is happening in our homes and behind closed doors is devastating our society as a whole, and the idea that family secrets need to remain secrets is crumbling as more and more survivors find that speaking up is really the only way to end the abuse and change the trajectory for future generations. 

Brene Brown, a social researcher and bestselling author, has devoted her life to the study of shame and vulnerability. She argues that shame is the biggest threat to wholehearted living. And as we have seen, victims of child abuse definitely struggle with wholehearted living. Now, I’m not saying that all shame stems from child abuse, but because our families and homes of origin have such a vital and lasting impact on us, one can reasonably conclude that abuse within these homes would be a MAJOR contributor to the inability to not just function, but to thrive.

So, how do you even start to solve a problem this big? 

For the sake of time and effectiveness, I’m going to offer suggestions that I think will be the most helpful, and I’m not necessarily going to offer all the options: because there are MANY!!

Here we go…

  1. Open your home to a young person who needs a family…and I’m not talking about Foster Care. This is one of the greatest acts of love I have ever witnessed, when a family from my church opened their home to me for 18 months and then continued to invest into me. They made me family. And I have seen other people do this…welcome a teen into their home, teach them what it means to respect others, to treat a child with kindness, to work and laugh together. You don’t have to adopt or become a foster parent to change someone’s entire life and future. Many kids fall between the cracks of this broken system, and we can’t wait for someone else to love them. 
  2. If you aren’t a foster parent, become friends with one and LOVE ON THEIR KIDS!! It absultuely takes a village. We don’t just need MORE foster parents, we also need to support the ones who are already fostering. Babysit. Hug their kids. Have them for sleepovers. Take them to ice cream, heck, bring the whole family ice cream! Every small act adds up.
  3. Volunteer with youth. It’s pretty easy to start getting involved in a youth group. The pastor will probably be so excited that another grown up wants to come and love on these kids alongside him.
  4. Report abuse EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU SEE IT. Or hear about it. Or suspect it. It took DOZENS of reports to finally get CPS involved in my family.
  5. If you suspect abuse, and you don’t know what to do about it, talk to a Police Officer. Trust me. Police Officers see so much, and they are often on the front lines of this issue. They know how to read people and at the very least, they can point you in a clearer direction.
  6. Men need to step up! Matt Chandler said that women and children are usually the ones who pay the price for the sins of men. It’s true. If you’re a man, we need you. We need your voice, your strength, your leadership, your presence. Do not allow abuse to step a toe inside your homes. 
  7. Tell your story. The platforms will look different for everyone. This doesn’t mean you start a blog to publish a list of all the sins committed against you. BUT…it is possible to tell your story with honor, to both yourself, and even to your abusers. 


What stays in the dark, grows in the dark. Shine a light. Be a light. And watch the darkness subside. 

The answers to preventing and healing from Child Abuse are multidimensional. Every individual is just that, an individual. What works for one will not work for all. And that is ok! 

God created each of us with our own unique set of gifting and strengths. Of course, recovery will be as diverse as we are.

But we all have core needs in common: love, affection, a sense of belonging, freedom from guilt and shame, a longing for a deep and emotionally healthy sense of self. 

God created this within us. God created us to live and thrive within a healthy community. When our community is damaged, especially in childhood, it damages everything inside us, because it goes against our very nature. The nature and core longings that God instilled in each of us.

I do believe recovery and healing from Child Abuse is possible. I think it is rare that an individual cannot learn to function and thrive. We sell ourselves short. We listen to voices we have no business listening to, and mostly, I think we underestimate how far we have come. I know I do.

It is HARD to heal. It is swimming upstream. It is battle. But people do it every single day of their lives and you can too.

Change your future. Change your family for generations to come. Refuse to believe that you are somehow bound to commit the same sins, that you are bound to someone else’s sin.

It ran in your family until it ran into YOU. And YOU get to stop it. YOU get the crush the curses. And YOU even get to help crush the curses for future generations

Let’s go change the world.

Let’s  go  change   e v e r y t h i n g

Published by Alicia Dean

Truth seeker and story-teller.

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