April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. During the month and throughout the year, Prosecuting Attorney D. Lee Buckingham II encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making our county a better, safer place for children and families. Even one child abuse case in our community is one too many.
April 2022 has seen a great increase in the number of jury trials in Hamilton County following lower numbers during the pandemic. Mr. Buckingham’s deputy prosecuting attorneys tried three jury trials last week (April 11-15). One of those trials confronted the offense of child molesting – the most heinous form of child abuse our criminal justice system routinely sees. That trial, just as the other two, ended with guilty verdicts being returned by the jury. Further, this week (April 18-22) two of Mr. Buckingham’s deputies are presenting a case to a jury with counts of neglect resulting in death or catastrophic injury, battery resulting in serious bodily injury to a person less than fourteen years old, and battery resulting in death to a person less than fourteen years old.
“I could not be prouder of the efforts of my staff in presenting these cases,” said Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney D. Lee Buckingham II. “The scourge of child abuse – be it sexual or physical in nature or in the form of neglect – can only be addressed by all of us in the community working together to prevent such terror and, when prevention and intervention efforts have not been successful, to hold perpetrators accountable.”
Nationwide, about 700,000 children are abused or neglected per year. According to Indiana’s Department of Child Services, the state recorded fifty child fatalities because of abuse or neglect in 2020.
As mentioned in Prosecutor Buckingham’s statements above, the key to protecting children in our community is twofold. By educating parents and empowering community members to know the warning signs of child abuse, and ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help prevent child abuse and neglect in the future.
Factors to help prevent child abuse are:
- Nurturing and attachment (Children need to know they are loved)
- Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development (Parenting is hard, especially if you don’t know what realistic expectations are for children based on their age)
- Parental resilience (Know when to put down a screaming child and take five minutes to collect yourself)
- Avoid abusing alcohol or using drugs (Almost all of Indiana’s fifty fatalities in 2020 involved alcohol or drug use)
- Concrete supports for parents (Be an available outlet/mentor for parents, especially those with young children)
As a community, it is important for all of us to be on the lookout for signs that children may be victims of abuse and speak up to help them. Child abuse may include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, or failure to provide necessary food or clothing to children.
Some of the signs of child abuse are:
- Physical injuries that are unexplained, or self-harm
- Depression, anxiety, unusual fears
- Fear of a certain adult or location
- Sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns, school performance and/or behavior (aggression, hostility, anger, etc.)
- Inappropriate sexual behavior or language
- Frequent absences from school
If you believe that a child is being abused or neglected, make a report by calling Indiana’s Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556 (available 24/7).
It’s up to all of us in our community and individual neighborhoods to ensure that the children who represent our future grow up safe, healthy, and free from abuse.