I scanned the article’s subhead — Donald Lee Cockrell of Sandy is found guilty in the death of his battered 3-year-old daughter. Then I saw the photos of Cockrell and his daughter, Lexi Pounder. With big eyes and blond hair in pigtails, she looked like a cross between my own two daughters when they were younger.
Lexi died battered and severely malnourished. At 3 1/2 years of age, she weighed 21 pounds, the average weight of a 15-month-old.
The story of Lexi’s brief existence is the story of hell on Earth.
It does not end with a dead 3-year-old, or with her father and his fiancée — who admitted causing some of Lexi’s injuries — alive in prison, eligible for release while Lexi would have been in her childbearing years. This horrific, senseless death is just a pinpoint on the tip of an enormous iceberg.
Child protective service agencies in the U.S. received 1,545 reported fatalities in 2011. That’s according to the Child Maltreatment report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Almost 80 percent of these violent deaths were caused by the children’s parents. Those are just the reported cases; God, perhaps, knows the real number. Four out of every five of these murder victims are 4 years of age or younger. (https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/statistics/can.cfm)
Hell on Earth spans the global population, more than 20 times larger than that of the U.S. I shudder to think that the violence worldwide against daughters like Lexi, and sons, expands by 20 times. Thirty-one thousand dead infants, toddlers and children, every year?
Can it get worse? Yes. For every child beaten to death by her parents, other children are beaten nearly to death, but survive.
Cockrell had another daughter. She’s alive. And Cockrell was found guilty of criminally mistreating her.
I don’t know anything about Lexi’s sister. But I have a sense of her life prospects. As much as we grieve for Lexi, I can’t help but think about the lives of her sister and the millions of girls like her worldwide abused by their parents. Theirs are the bones, hearts and souls that are shattered in bodies that live on, if hell on Earth can actually be called living. These lives are ruined before they’ve even really begun. A child of severe abuse loses virtually all sense of trust, safety and intimacy. Their entire lives, not just childhoods, are twisted by the trauma.
Girls who survived yesterday’s horrors are today’s women. They surround you. They are your friends, neighbors, teammates, fellow parishioners. They are your co-workers, bosses, employees, your wives and mothers. They are some of you.
Some hide their scars well enough to become outwardly successful or at least functional; others are destitute and suffer from a range of mental illnesses. Many, though, are quietly suffering and literally dying from the horrors they’ve endured.
Last year I was a keynote speaker at the California Council on Family Relations’ annual conference along with Dr. Vincent J. Felitti. He is co-principal investigator of a collaborative research effort between Kaiser — his employer — and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Felitti and his colleagues have access to an enormous base of clinical data, and have found that the more traumatic experiences a child endures the higher their adult rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide attempts, smoking, poor health, sexually transmitted disease, ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures and liver disease.
His research has also found that childhood incest, rape and molestation are clearly associated with chronic depression, morbid obesity, marital instability and gastrointestinal distress, among other psychological and physical problems.
Writing in the Permanente Journal (Winter 2002), a childhood abuse victim recalled her lifetime of profoundly chronic medical conditions, and how doctors could not effectively treat her: Neither they nor she understood the roots of her chronic illnesses until she underwent psychotherapy and uncovered the long repressed memories of abuse.
“The psychologist Dr. John Briere remarked that if child abuse and neglect were to disappear today, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty,” this victim wrote.
Perhaps humanity has such a future of diminishing insanity. For now, the world’s cemeteries are populated by Lexi Pounder and those like her. Prisons are populated with adults such as her father and his ex-fiancée, who fail miserably to do what the rest of the animal kingdom does — protect its young. And within the world between Lexi’s gravesite and her father’s prison cell is that silent shadow, hell on Earth, populated by women struggling in silence, cursed with having drawn the short straw when the fathers of the world were handed down.
— Kevin Renner
Source: Oregon Live