A little background from Harlan Abrahams himself:
LIFE IS THE GREATEST GIFT:
SAVING OUR CHILDREN FROM ABUSE
By Harlan Abrahams, writer, lawyer, educator, and author of Neveah and the Angel of Death: One City’s Quest to Bring a Child Killer to Justice
For the millions of children who suffer from abuse and the effects of domestic violence, the Holidays are seldom joyful. Holidays bring stress and stress can trigger abusive behavior. For children on the receiving end, or witnessing the abuse of loved ones, the terror comes less from the beatings, whether physical or verbal, and more from the random nature of the attacks.
Eighty percent of child abuse is perpetrated by parents and more by others who hold trusted positions. Imagine the terror combined with the breach of trust. Then add the confusion. To love mommy and daddy for the nice little doll they gave you for Christmas or tell anyone who will listen—any aunt, uncle, teacher, or cousin—that they whip you with belts and punch you with fists and shove you into walls?
Neveah and the Angel of Death isn’t really a Holiday book. It is meant to be read all year round. It tells the tragic tale of the killing of three-year old Neveah Gallegos in Denver in 2007, the remarkable efforts of the community to bring her killer to justice, and what is being done—and can be done—to rid our country of the scourge of child abuse, child killing, and domestic violence.
In the tradition of In Cold Blood, the book is a straightforward third-person account of the killing and the trial of the killer, told mostly from the perspectives of a dozen participants in the case. By weaving together their personal stories, I sought to capture not only what they did and what they said but also what they felt—something seldom revealed on the witness stand. And because every quote comes from media reports, trial or other official transcripts, or interviews I conducted, the voices ring with an authenticity I could not have contrived.
Yet the legacy of Neveah Gallegos reaches beyond her grave and the pages of her story.That’s because Denver is doing something meaningful to solve many of the problems facing those who seek access to the social service and legal systems in cases of child abuse and domestic violence. Next summer the Rose Andom Center will open downtown near the Criminal Justice Center, and it will combine the resources of over 30 public and private agencies devoted to different aspects of domestic violence in a single facility using a “wraparound” model that has been employed successfully in other cities.
So Neveah’s story is not just a tale of tragedy. It is equally a tale of triumph. It helped spur action and awareness. It serves as a reminder that we can do better. We owe it to our children to put a stop to their abuse. Domestic violence costs this country many billions of dollars each year. Indeed, the estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2008 was over $100 billion!
And the human costs far exceed the economic costs. Children who survive abuse grow up to be adults who often suffer from anxiety and depression. The fear of random “bad things” happening haunts them all their lives.
Don’t turn away from the challenge. It’s not fun to wage war against child abuse and domestic violence. But it is uplifting. The futures of countless children depend on our willingness to roll up our sleeves and do what is right.
This Holiday season, as we count our blessings, let us not forget those who fear the family time that most of us crave. For these children, the gift of life—a happy, healthy life that can be lived outside the shadow of fear—that is the greatest gift.