Local News

Researcher Says Many Deaths From Child Abuse Blamed On Other Causes

Posted August 3, 1999

— Time and again you have heard stories about children becoming the victims of abuse, but more stories have not been told.

A North Carolina researcher, Marcia Herman-Giddens, studied child abuse homicides for 10 years. An article about her study appeared in Monday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

She says about two-thirds of the deaths from child abuse are blamed on something else.

People were shocked when a Raleigh minister was accused of critically injuring a 7-month-old baby in his care, but researchers say it happens more often than people know.

The hotline at "Prevent Child Abuse" in Raleigh gets more than 300 calls a month from people concerned about kids.

"We're getting a lot of calls from parents who are stressed, who are overwhelmed and more of reports with child abuse having to do with younger children," said Jennifer Tolle, executive director.

"The group of people who are most dangerous to children are their own parents," said Herman-Giddens.

Herman-Giddens studied child homicides in North Carolina from 1985 to 1995. She says many deaths resulting from child abuse are not categorized correctly, and that ends up minimizing the problem.

"I think it gives the public the false impression that children are being killed by strangers, people they don't know. We found that 85 percent of children 10 and under who are killed, are killed by those very people who are supposed to be taking care of them and loving them," said Herman-Giddens.

Herman-Giddens says the problem lies with the rules the federal government uses for classifying deaths.

She says they need to be re-examined if people are going to get a true picture of how many children are dying as the result of abuse.

Prevent Child Abuse North Carolinasays 23 children died last year in the state because they were abused.

In five of those cases, the mother's boyfriend was charged. In four, the mother was arrested.

The father or step-father faced charges in three of those cases, and babysitters were charged twice. Nine other deaths are being investigated as child abuse.


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