By Lois Reid
Years ago, during a training seminar on child abuse, the chief medical examiner, Dr. Judith Lohotay, said: “If you want to get away with murder, kill your children.”
She backed this up with slides of children who had been murdered by their parents, and the various ways by which the children were murdered and often tortured. I got the message.
Recently, I got a phone call from a friend who told me about a child in her elementary school class. The child told her that he was considering killing himself. He said that his father beats him and his brothers and sisters and mother. He said that sometimes his father does not let him eat and that he gets very hungry, but that his mother sneaks him food. Everyone in the home is terrified of the father.
I asked my teacher friend if she called the state hot line for suspected child abuse and maltreatment. She said that she did not.
Here are some of her reasons.
• The school social worker said that the hot line takes the call, but the county does nothing about it. It never pursues the case. So, what’s the use in reporting it?
• She is afraid that there will be negative consequences for her by the school if she reports it.
• She has no proof, other than what the child told her.
This same child also told her that he lives next door to another child in the school. He told her the other child’s name, and he saw that child’s father knock him down on the front porch and drag him by the ankles down the front steps so that his head banged against each step.
My friend talked to that child’s teacher. That teacher confided to my friend that she had been suspecting that her student was being sexually abused in his home, because of some inappropriate behavior in school by the child. Did that teacher report it to the hot line? No. She does not want to get involved either.
Kids get killed because mandated reporters do not report it, because investigators often do not meet with the children, but only interview the parents, or, they interview the children in front of the parents, or the parent(s) are influential and intimidate the investigators or their supervisors and threaten lawsuits or political repercussions.
Have courage. Mandated reporters need only suspect abuse/maltreatment. It is up to the investigators to gather evidence and determine if there is or is not abuse or maltreatment. Your name should be kept confidential. You should be held “harmless” if you had a legitimate reason for filing the report.
I do not know the names of these children, or I would report it.
Lois Reid of Amherst is a retired Family and Children’s Services specialist for New York State and was trained as a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse or maltreatment.