Child Abuse: Issues and Answers

By Mondale, Walter F. | Public Welfare, Winter 1993 | Go to article overview

Child Abuse: Issues and Answers


Mondale, Walter F., Public Welfare


This article was published in the spring of 1974, when Senator Mondale (D-Minnesota) was chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Youth. He introduced the Child Care Prevention and Treatment Act, which was signed into law by President Nixon January 31, 1974.

For so long the child abuser was the modern Salem witch. We were the horrible monsters who did these things to our children. Yes, the deeds were indeed monstrous but we are not monsters.

Jolly K., founder of Parents Anonymous, before the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Youth

Perhaps more than any other witness who testified before my Subcommittee on Children and Youth, a remarkable woman named Jolly K. taught me what child abuse is about.

She made it clear that as a nation, for many years, we averted our attention from the horror of child abuse. Unable to cope psychologically with the stories of burning and beating, we assured ourselves that such things didn't really happen very often. If they did happen, we told ourselves, obviously the abuser was taken care of by the criminal justice system. What happened to the child victim in such cases was a little unclear.

I and my colleagues on the Subcommittee on Children and Youth learned a lot during 1973, when we held hearings and fought for federal legislation on child abuse. We would like to think that many other Americans--the general public as well as those professionally concerned--developed new understanding and awareness of the scope and complexity of our national child abuse problem. We would also like to think that, with the enactment of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, we have taken at least a first step toward addressing this problem on a national scale.

My subcommittee received testimony in Washington, Denver, New York, and Los Angeles. We heard from social workers, doctors, lawyers, lay therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and abusing parents. Jolly K. told us in her own words how she once threw a knife at her own daughter.

But there was a bright side. Everywhere we went, we found dedicated, concerned people who were giving freely of their time and energy to try to identify child abuse victims and prevent further abuse by rehabilitating their families.

Perhaps the most important conclusion of the Subcommittee's investigation was that existing laws--on both the state and the federal levels--have simply not done an effective job of dealing with child abuse. …

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