The child vic­tim toll must come down

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS -

‘‘We can en­sure this is­sue has an un­flag­ging fo­cus.’’

This week, Stuff re­launches the Faces of In­no­cents project and in­tro­duces a new con­cept – the Child Vic­tim Toll.

Moko Ran­gi­to­heriri’s death pro­voked in­censed cit­i­zens to march in the streets, de­mand­ing an­swers from the fam­ily, the com­mu­nity, and the au­thor­i­ties. Sub­jected to hor­ren­dous abuse from David Haerewa and Ta­nia Shailer, Moko could never be called lucky. But the pub­lic grief caused by his death means he will never be for­got­ten.

Many other child vic­tims are de­nied a last­ing legacy. They are re­mem­bered only by those who knew them in their too-short lives. Chil­dren like Anaru Rogers from Welling­ton, Gra­cie-May McSor­ley from the Kapiti Coast, or Kath­leen Har­ris from Up­per Hutt. We owe them more.

Our Faces of In­no­cents project, launched last year, cre­ated a pub­lic me­mo­rial to child vic­tims of abuse, ne­glect or mal­treat­ment. It shined a light on one of this coun­try’s most trou­bling ills.

This week, the project ex­pands to com­mem­o­rate more of the 209 chil­dren lost in the last 25 years and to in­tro­duce a new con­cept: the Child Vic­tim Toll.

We can­not pre­tend that any one pol­icy, com­mu­nity ini­tia­tive, or even all the money in the world will stop all in­no­cent chil­dren from dy­ing.

But we can en­sure this is­sue has an un­flag­ging fo­cus.

The Child Vic­tim Toll is based on our data­base of ev­ery child vic­tim since 1992. As­sem­bled and up­dated by our re­porters, it is the first and only pub­lic source of its kind.

Last year, our data­base recorded 14 chil­dren who died. In 2009, the worst year on our record, the child vic­tim toll was 17.

De­spite our ex­ten­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tions, some chil­dren will have es­caped no­tice. We have taken up the man­tle of track­ing this vital in­for­ma­tion.

We hope this toll will in­spire more New Zealan­ders to act: to learn about the scale of the prob­lem; vol­un­teer to help chil­dren at risk; do­nate to sup­port an agency work­ing to pre­vent child abuse; and re­port any signs of pos­si­ble abuse.

For Moko, Kath­leen, Anaru and ev­ery child vic­tim, we say: we must not ac­cept an in­ex­orable rise in the num­ber of Faces of In­no­cents. The Child Vic­tim Toll must come down.

For more or ways you can be in­volved go to stuff.co.nz

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