That poor wee mite. That innocent little Flaxmere boy, beaten black and blue by those he loved and those he desperately hoped would love him back. The violence of the thrashing that nearly killed him is scarcely imaginable.
Those little four-year-old arms hopelessly attempting to defend himself. Those little legs unable to run away. That little mind initially frightened and then contorted in pain and now damaged forever. Damn those people who did this, and damn those who now protect them. There are no excuses. None.
All of the recent talk about Oranga Tamariki uplifts of children has been an important scrutiny but, make no mistake, what drives those social workers is events like this. These incidents are a mirror of our society, and the reflection is dark and uncomfortable.
We don't know the name of the little lad currently in Starship hospital with irreparable brain damage. But we do know the name of so many just like him who didn't survive.
Delcelia Witika, James Whakaruru, Coral Burrows, Nia Glassie, the Kahui twins. We could never remember them all, we have one child dying every five weeks as a result of violence in New Zealand. And those killed are just the tip of the iceberg of those tortured in their own homes.
For every one of these incidents that scratches the consciousness when it makes headlines, there are thousands of others suffering. These children are living in a world of giants, unable to understand why the beatings occur or how to make them stop.
But it's not just the thrashings that's the issue. It's also the lack of hugs and of love that those little souls endure. And the vast majority survive that existence and become the next generation of offenders. And so the cycle continues.
A significant part of that cycle is gang membership. So many of today's gang members were yesterday's beaten and neglected kids. Those drivers of gang membership are not just evident in my research, but by gang studies the world over.
And it's the gangs that gain the attention, the consequence ahead of the cause. Recent events have seen them in the headlines and on the hustings. Overt street violence undertaken by gangs is an issue, and it shouldn't be ignored, but the publicity and reaction to it far surpasses the relative problems and threats it poses. Not least because gang violence tends to exist between gangs. Or at least that's what you'd think from the publicity.
Research by the Ministry of Social Development shows that half of all serious offences committed by gang members is family related. And that 60 per cent of children born to gang parents are abused or neglected – with mothers as likely to be the offender as the gang father.
So even the problem of gang violence is largely a problem of family violence. But that problem extends far beyond the gangs; albeit often in the same neighbourhoods that gangs grow.
One survey found 14 percent of Kiwi kids had witnessed adults physically hurting children, and 40,000 notifications of abuse and neglect occur annually with 8,500 confirmed events. And those are only the reported cases.
Wouldn't it be nice if the political parties, instead of telling us every three years how they're going to crush the gangs – which sounds great but achieves little – instead agreed to an intergenerational effort to tackle the causes of crime and make at-risk families safer?
It sure would be, but if you don't want to wait for that, there are things that we can do now. In those communities where such violence is rife, we need to stand up and intervene. Neighbours, friends, family and whānau. All of us.
We can also, for example, volunteer to mentor children whose parents are in prison, or who just don't enjoy the privilege many of us do. A number of organisations arrange such things. Assisting in the life of one child can have tremendous flow-on consequences.
Individually, we can't solve these problems, but as individuals we can make a difference.
We must refocus at least some of our efforts toward tackling the causes rather than the symptoms of crime. And I seem to bang on about this approach a lot, but I can make no apology for it. If we don't rethink our approaches to crime, we'll continue to have this conversation for decades to come. Prompted, no doubt, by each of the poor little kids who'll have their heads beaten in.
Dr Jarrod Gilbert is the director of Criminal Justice at the University of Canterbury.