One Child, Many Stories

Charita Goshay, Canton Repository

We know Hailey Miku, 3, of Canton, was likely the victim of abuse, only because she is dead.

On Monday, her father, Mathew, was charged with her murder. His live-in girlfriend, Jessica Bender, was charged with child endangering.

The story has stunned and angered people, who know that no child deserves such a fate. But here’s the thing: Hailey’s story is only one of many. Not every abused and neglected kid winds up dead; in fact, most don’t.

For every Hailey Miku, there are thousands more who suffer in silence.

Every teacher has a story — or 10 — about kids who come to school dirty and disheveled, or hungry, or exhausted; the telltale signs of a fractured childhood and a family in chaos.

They remember the names and faces of the disruptive ones, some of whom acted out because they lacked the necessary communications skills and capacity to ask for help.

Plus, if you’ve always lived a certain way, you have nothing against which to measure, but you’re still angry, and you don’t even know why.

It is difficult enough to raise and care for a child who is wanted and planned. Too many children are entering the world by happenstance to parents who are neither willing or able to put them first. The burden of caring for a child you have no idea how to raise, nor can afford, opens a dangerous door.

Jessica Bender’s 5-year-old son told investigators that Hailey, who had been staying with them since Christmas, had been previously beaten by her father. The boy himself suffered abuse at the hands of a former boyfriend of Bender’s, according to the Stark County Department of Job and Family Services. He has since been taken into custody, most likely to live with a foster family.

He’s the lucky one.

The stories that haunt reporters and linger like forlorn ghosts even years after they’ve been written, are those that involve the neglect and abuse of a child.

Journalists, along with judges, social workers and police officers, bear witness to that which we don’t want to believe. Long after justice is served, the details remain etched upon our memories

STRANGER DANGER

We often teach kids about “stranger danger” when in truth, children suffer most often at the hands of those whom they trust and rely on most.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, an estimated 1,825 children are abused every day in the U.S.

The Every Child Matters Education Fund determined that over the last 10 years, 20,000 American children have been killed due to abuse; four-times more than the number Americans killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We talk about how “bad” the world has become, but part of it is due to abused and neglected children growing up to become broken adults, who in turn have children, and on it goes.

In a time when people are angry about virtually everything under the sun, where’s the moral outrage over this? Ignoring the plight of children is like eating your seed corn.

The people who hurt and killed Hailey Miku will answer for their crimes, but there are hundreds, thousands more children whose suffering will never be known, whose stories will never be told.

Originally Published  March 8, 2016 Canton Repository