Butch Mazzuca: Kids deserve to enjoy holidays in Vail Valley, elsewhere
As the title of the well-known Christmas song tells us, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well, for those of us who live in our own winter wonderland in the Vail Valley, we know what a special time the Christmas season is. We decorate our homes, attend holiday parties, shop for that perfect gift and embrace one another with good cheer.
But when you get right down to it, and putting its religious significance aside for a moment, in many ways Christmastime is really about children. For kids, Christmas should be the happiest and most exciting time of the year, but for many, that’s not always the case.
Instead of experiencing the love and excitement of the season, too many children right here in Happy Valley are victims of some form of abuse. And let’s not kid ourselves. There is little, if any, statistical difference in the incidence of child abuse ” whether sexual, physical or emotional ” among kids who live in the valley and those who live in Harlem or a Pennsylvania mining town.
Noted child psychologist Dorothy Law Nolte wrote that when children live with criticism, they learn to condemn; when they live with hostility, they learn to fight; when they live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive; when they live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves; when they live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy; when they live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy, and when they live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
When child abusers are apprehended, it’s not uncommon for neighbors to tell the authorities that they “knew something was wrong,” yet far too often these neighbors never bothered to report the known or suspected child abuse.
Studies have shown that although the majority of Americans believe that everyone should play a role in stopping such an egregious crime, far too many people admit to witnessing child abuse and doing nothing about it.
Some don’t report suspected incidents because they claim they didn’t know whom or where to call. Misconceptions regarding what will happen once a report of known or suspected abuse is made to the authorities is another reason many adults don’t report child abuse. Then, too, many people incorrectly assume that, by law, an abused child will be removed from his or her home immediately, when in fact, that is the least likely outcome.
Others believe child abuse cannot be reported anonymously ” even though the laws in most states allow the person reporting the incident to do so without leaving his or her name. Still others assume that the person reported for abuse is entitled to know who made the report, when in fact the opposite is true ” child-abuse reports can be made anonymously, and the suspected perpetrator will never be the wiser.
There are many indicators that tell us a child may be physically abused. Unexplained injuries such as burns, cuts, bite marks or bruises or welts in the shape of an object such as a belt buckle that suddenly appear are all red flags, as are incipient behavioral issues, problems in school or an unfounded fear of adults.
Emotional abuse frequently results in apathy, depression, hostility, stress, lack of concentration and eating disorders. Child neglect can take the form of unsuitable clothing for the weather, extreme hunger and children who are dirty or obviously unbathed.
Meanwhile, indicators of sexual abuse include a child’s inappropriate interest or knowledge of sexual acts, nightmares or bed-wetting, drastic changes in appetite, excessive aggression or fear of a particular person.
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that child abuse is alive and well in Eagle County. And instead of experiencing the excitement and joy of the season, too many of our children live with fear and guilt every day of their lives. They lack self-confidence, have low self-esteem and are withdrawn and uncommunicative.
So what should we do if or when we encounter a child we suspect may have been abused? Start by acknowledging the fact that “it can happen here,” and then report the matter to the authorities. But whatever you do, do not promise a child that you will not tell anyone. Remember, if you promise a child not to tell anyone and then report the incident, from the child’s perspective, you, too, have violated a trust, which only serves to compound the injury.
So while we enjoy the holiday season, let us not forget to keep our antenna up regarding the kids we come into contact with every day. Teachers, counselors and school nurses may be the front line, but they can’t see everything.
So if you suspect that a child is being abused, remember, it is your responsibility to report it. And what better Christmas gift could there be for a child than to offer him or her the gift of hope, peace and safety?
Quote of the day: “Christmas is the delight of loving and being loved; not for gifts tied with bows, but for gifts of the spirit offered with an open heart every day of the year.”
” Pearl Buck
Butch Mazzuca is a business consultant who writes
weekly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at