Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

February 2, 2014

CHIEF'S CORNER: The scourge of child abuse

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — I am sure many of you have followed the recent news stories about the shocking deaths of a number of our Western New York children who were victims of child abuse. The most recent abuse victim was a 3 year-old girl beaten to death in her own home in Amherst. 

As a police officer I can tell you that there is nothing that makes your blood boil more than when someone mistreats a child. Unfortunately, despite our proactive approach, increased awareness and the stiff penalties for all forms of child abuse, it continues to occur all too frequently. It is a crime that can occur at every socioeconomic level, across all ethnic and cultural lines, and within all religions and all levels of education.

It can be difficult for child to tell anyone about the abuse because it occurs mainly in the privacy of a home and is generally perpetrated by an adult known to the child. According to various sources, a complaint of child abuse is received every 10 seconds in this country. More than four children die each day from abuse and these statistics may be low due to underreporting and because many abuse cases are not recognized as abuse. 

Child abuse is more than bruises and broken bones. While physical abuse cases are the most obvious and receive the most attention due to the visible injuries and scars, other types of abuse such as emotional abuse and neglect also leave deep, lasting psychological scars. In fact, about three-fourths of all abuse cases are classified as emotional abuse. 

Emotional injuries are not obvious and they are difficult to treat. Ignoring children’s needs, putting them in unsupervised or dangerous situations, or making a child feel worthless or stupid are also examples of child abuse. Regardless of the type of abuse, the result is serious emotional harm. 

Abused children are nine times more likely to engage in criminal activity, tend to suffer psychological disorders and have a greater chance of abusing their own children.

The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal and end the cycle of abuse. That is why it’s important to recognize child abuse in its earliest stages and report it to police.

One of the most obvious signs of child abuse is unexplained physical injuries. Children are always falling or bumping into things. I made a number of trips to the emergency room with my own children for various bumps, bruises, and the occasional stitches incurred during sporting events or from general roughhousing. However, children exhibiting constant injuries such as bruising or broken bones that are explained away as “normal” may be suspect. 

Another telling clue is changes in a child’s behavior. Abused children often are afraid to go home and appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive. Changes in eating or sleeping are also indicative of possible abuse.

The best method to prevent child abuse is to be alert to the problem and if you see something or suspect something, call someone. As police officers, we always hear the statement from people that they “don’t want to get involved”. However, in cases of child abuse it is imperative for you to get involved and follow your feelings. If you suspect something is wrong, it probably is! In cases of child abuse, you may be the only hope for a child trapped in an abusive household. In fact, the simple act of picking up the phone and calling police may save the life of a defenseless child.

If you suspect that a child is being abused, please call the Lockport Police Department at 433-7700. You may also contact the New York State Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-342-3720. Depending on the severity of the reported child abuse, hotline calls are referred to the proper police agency within a very short period of time. 

I can assure you that no matter how we receive information, any complaint of child abuse will receive our highest priority. With your help, we will continue to work diligently to uncover any type of child abuse and end this destructive practice.