Scared Silent's" purpose, according to the press info, is to "expose and end child abuse." Spec's graphic testimonies, often painful and repulsive to watch, certainly do expose the heinous crime. And by cleverly showcasing six different levels and types of abuse, as well as the broad spectrum of the socio-economic strata from which each abuser comes, the spec subtly forces viewers to relate to each story, and in the end, begs those who may be abusers to seek help by calling a toll-free number flashed on screen.

Scared Silent’s” purpose, according to the press info, is to “expose and end child abuse.” Spec’s graphic testimonies, often painful and repulsive to watch, certainly do expose the heinous crime. And by cleverly showcasing six different levels and types of abuse, as well as the broad spectrum of the socio-economic strata from which each abuser comes, the spec subtly forces viewers to relate to each story, and in the end, begs those who may be abusers to seek help by calling a toll-free number flashed on screen.

“Scared” opens with a disclaimer, warning of the graphic nature of the program. Oprah Winfrey, as host, relates her own childhood tragedy of sexual abuse and reels off some numbing statistics: 7,300 cases of abuse are reported each day; four children die daily from maltreatment; 61% of teen mothers report that they have been sexually abused as children; and the most startling: In 88% of all abuse cases, the perpetrator is a family member.

These stats are enough to make one’s heart break for the kids. The adult abusers showcased all report abuse as children, leading “Scared” into its most salient point: Low self-respect and low self-esteem breed the vicious cycle of abuse.

Well-done spec may give victims the courage to break their silence and seek help in order to escape a desperate situation, but in Winfrey’s coda, she tells the audience that child abuse affects everybody, that it’s everyone’s problem.

Viewers who do not have a history of abuse or know of anyone who does, or even suspect anyone of this crime may be puzzled as to why it would touch them. But a little thought reveals that kids are the future and unchecked abuse will breed a nihilistic future.

Certainly anyone willing to stomach the hourlong horridness of the tales told will think that the human race really has not evolved as highly as philosophers and prophets want people to believe.

But as depressing and degrading as it is to watch, “Silent” reiterates throughout that in order to break the cycle, parents (and everyone) must show respect to their children, fellow man and themselves.

Scared Silent

(Fri., (4), 10-11 p.m., PBS, CBS-TV, NBC-TV; Sun., (6), 10-11 p.m., ABC-TV)

Production

Filmed and taped by Arnold Shapiro Production in association with USAA. Exec producer, Arnold Shapiro; producer, Brenda Rosenwerg; director, Melissa Jo Peltier; writers, Shapiro, Peltier.

Crew

Camera, Levie Isaacks; editors, Rick Blue, Sandy Guthrie, Meri Weingarten.

Cast

Host: Oprah Winfrey.

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