There have been several recent news stories about infant homicides, and while I know that “if it bleeds it leads” in newsrooms, I’ve decided that I’m done reading sensationalist news stories about tragedies involving children. It is unwelcome in my home and on my Facebook feed from now on.
Each individual case is beyond heartbreaking. I was devastated after hearing about the toddler who was severely beat by his mother’s boyfriend and left several hours to die alone on the bathroom floor. I cried about the little girl who was forced to drink so much liquid as a punishment that her brain swelled and she died. I’ve mourned for the children, for the childrens’ families, for the communities in which these crimes took place. But I’ve shed far too many tears for situations that are not under my control.
All too often, these stories are about shock value. They draw in readers because of the abject horror they elicit. They get shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media. And the people reading and reacting often feel powerless to change things for those children and children like them.
These stories don’t tell readers what is known about infant homicide. They don’t identify the significant risk factors, which include childbirth to young mothers (under age 15), subsequent pregnancies for teen mothers (under age 19), an absence of prenatal care, a lack of parental education, low income, substance abuse and single-parent households.
These stories don’t tell us who to watch—the perpetrators are typically men (fathers or boyfriends of the mothers). They don’t tell us the known fact that these deaths usually happen following a pattern of abuse so, in many cases, if someone had spoken up sooner, they could have been prevented.
These stories don’t point to the importance of education and social services in preventing these senseless deaths. They don’t champion sex education to prevent teen pregnancies, or tell us about resources, such as family counseling, training courses for young mothers and fathers, and substance abuse recovery programs.
These stories don’t offer solutions. All they do is cause distress for the people who read them. So instead of wasting my time reading and getting depressed, I’m going to spend it more constructively. I resolve to pay attention when I see teen mothers, and offer help to those with whom I have personal relationships. I’m going to tell everyone who will listen to be careful who they allow to care for their children.
And next time I see a story about a child being beheaded by a circular saw on my Facebook feed, I’m going to click “I don’t want to see this.” Because if a news outlet is not offering solutions, they are just profiting from someone’s pain. And I am not OK with that.