Coroner’s Journal

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 4, 1999

Dr. Christy Montegut / L’Observateur / May 4, 1999

Child abuse has become a major social problem which has received extensive publicity in the 1990’s. The scope and extent of this problem is not fully knownbecause most cases of child abuse go unreported. Included under the broad termof child abuse are cases of physical violence and injury, emotional deprivation and abuse, physical neglect and sexual abuse. Cases often go unreported becausechildren feel reprisals by the offending adult, which is usually a parent or close relative. Children usually have blind faith and trust in their parental figures andaccept parental behavior as the “norm,” which is to be copied as they grow up.

This is why abused children often will grow up and become abusing parents to their own children, repeating the cycle.

Child abuse cases are usually discovered by neighbors or school teachers who happen to have close contact with these children. They usually can see thetelltale signs: numerous bruises on the body, inappropriate or lack of clothing, shy withdrawn behavior and lack of emotional and intellectual development compared with other children of the same age.

Federal and state agencies have been established to investigate suspected cases of child abuse. The State Legislature has passed laws protecting the rights ofchildren to live and grow up in an environment free of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. These laws also protect the rights of individuals who reportsuspected cases of abuse to the proper authorities. Frequently cases gounreported because individuals fear reprisals by the abusing adult. Physicianshave become well versed in recognizing and reporting cases of suspected abuse as this is now taught in all medical schools and physician training programs throughout the country.

Children who are abused are placed under the care of foster parents until their natural home environment can be corrected or changed. Progress in this area hasbeen slow, as it is often difficult to prove abuse in a court of law unless the child has obvious external scars or injuries which make a visible impact on a judge or jury. In this regard, the laws on the books have been made morestringent to allow more discretion for judges to remove children from homes when abuse is suspected.

Parish coroners can assist in investigating suspected cases of child abuse by working closely with the local State Office of Family Services, who have workers trained to conduct home visits to interview families and victims.Back to Top

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