Recently several reports of local child abuse cases have appeared in the news: Teghan Skiba, who died as a result of the physical abuse that was inflicted on her by her mother’s boyfriend; Devean C. Duley and Ja’van T. Duley whose mother allegedly suffocated them, then faked their deaths by driving her car into a lake; and DeVarion Gross whose mother allegedly killed him and attempted to conceal his death for six weeks. Child abuse is one of the most emotional and challenging aspects on the spectrum of domestic violence.
Child victims suffer severe physical, emotional and behavioral consequences that can last well beyond the length of abuse. The severity of these symptoms increases the younger the child is. Unlike adults, children lack free will –unable to leave the house or even feed or clothe themselves–as well as the resources to be able to cope with abuse such as calling for help. Parents are usually who a child turns to for help since their interaction with other adults is so limited. When parents abuse their children it is a gross violation of the trust and security that a child has placed in a parent.
Until recently, the only child services that we offered here at FVPC was the free childcare for moms who attend our support group. However, FVPC volunteer Liz McInerney, a long-time advocate for children at the Center, started a children’s coping skills group at a local shelter with the help of our Crisis Response Director. Earlier this summer Liz, a rising senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, received a Robert E. Bryan Public Service Fellowship which granted her funding to be able to make this group a reality. This group recently ended with many positive results and with plans to continue providing these essential services to children in need in Orange County. Without volunteers like Liz, however, this work would not be possible. Click here to read Liz’s blog for more information about what she learned.
For children without resources like a coping skills group, often there are little options. Interestingly, Child Protective Services -a division of the Department of Social Services- did not exist until 1874 when Henry Bergh, the founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals intervened on an abused child’s behalf, by deeming her an animal and with that claim allowing her protection under the law. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was formed. Today every state has a child protective services (CPS) system in place.
The abuse of innocent children-voiceless and lacking independence-is one of the most egregious offenses. One of the statistics that we cite in our Community Education program, The Affects of Domestic Violence on Children, is that abuse or neglect as a child increases the risk of arrest as a juvenile by 53%, as an adult by 38%, and for a violent crime by 38%. These are scary numbers. What can you do? Here’s one idea.