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The worst crime against Alaskans is child abuse.
Most victims are 3 years old or younger, and the abuse inflicted upon them has lifetime repercussions. People who are mistreated often develop mental issues and turn around to mistreat others — sometimes their own children; sometimes other people's children.
Until we end child abuse, we will not end violence.
Alaska has one of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the United States. Nearly 30 percent of the Alaska children maltreated are under 3. In 2013, the Office of Children’s Services received more than 40,000 allegations of child abuse and neglect; 5,000 of those allegations were substantiated.
Which shows that too many of Alaska's most vulnerable aren't being given the basics civilization has to offer — safety, food and shelter, at least not until they are removed from abusive and neglectful situations.
This only happens when the children, their teachers, their physicians or other adults who encounter them speak out to authorities.
The abuse might be at the hands of parents, or sometimes it is by trusted friends or complete strangers.
Very often it is adults who've been abused who abuse children.
Just think of how awful it feels when someone speaks harshly, and then imagine being only 3 and experiencing that and worse. The fear such a child must feel, fear that radiates through them both mentally and physically.
Or imagine just being left without shelter or regular nutritious meals, which many of us take for granted.
This is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Today, in an effort to call attention to abuse and neglect, and efforts to eliminate it, sympathizers will wear blue. It's national Wear Blue Day.
But the effort against child abuse and neglect is much more than showing solidarity against such acts. It's about all adult Alaskans being aware of the ways they can help children grow up safely.
That means putting no one at risk and stepping forward to work in programs designed for the advancement of children.
It's like the flight attendants say: Put on your own mask and then help your children. In other words, be safe and then help to make others safe.
Working together toward safety will make for a safe Alaska for all Alaskans, whether it involves your children or the friends of your children. We're all in this together.