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Stress Often a Factor in Child Abuse Cases

Posted August 30, 2007

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— Every five minutes in North Carolina, a child is reported abused or neglected. In 2005, abuse claimed the lives of 37 children, according to a group studying the problem.

Parenting can be a challenge, and the demands are too much for some people.  According to Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, most people who abuse children are ordinary people who become overwhelmed by stress.

Substance abuse, lack of child development knowledge, single parenting and poverty are also factors that often cause people to abuse children, the group said.

In the past eight days, three men from the Triangle have been charged in children's deaths.

Eric Brandon Carter Jr., 18, was charged Tuesday with killing his 10½-month-old daughter. Raleigh police said they found the baby inside Carter's home on Colleton Road. The Chief State Medical Examiner's Office has not said how the infant died.

Cary police said Diontay Williams killed his 7-month-old son last week. Court documents suggested Williams confessed to shaking the infant.

And earlier this week in Durham, Jerry Helisek was charged with killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter. An autopsy showed the child died of blunt force trauma to the head.

The state is seeing "what appears to be a trend and increase in child abuse homicides," said Tom Vitaglione of the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force. "The parent or caregiver has just snapped and picked up that child and is shaking him and drops him." 

Vitaglione said parents seem to be under more stress these days.  Another problem is that child abusers are often sentenced only to probation. Vitaglione said people do not want to believe a parent could take the life of someone so innocent.

"Juries find it difficult to possibly think that a parent would, with some intent, kill a child," said Vitaglione.

There is a study under way at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to better explain to parents why children cry and how to better meet a crying child's needs. The hope is the study will make parenting less stressful.

For more information on child abuse, call Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina at 1-800-CHILDREN.


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  • clickclackity2 Aug 30, 2007

    I didn't even have to read the full article to post comments. Stress...in my opinion most abusers are simply evil and extremely selfish.

  • claudnc Aug 30, 2007

    chili - you have to realize human life is not more important than animals. You will never see the outrage for human death of anykind that you saw on MV. Literally, he was on every channel and every radio station for three weeks. When has any story dealing with human loss received that much coverage. Not VT, the loss of so many soldiers in Irag. Oops forgot about 9/11. We saw the horrific pictures of the victims of Katrina standing on bridges and laying on sidewalks but overall MV and those dogs win out over any human loss story. So why we fight over personal responsibility kids are abused by the very ones that have given birth to them on a daily basis. Lets not even talk about the ones that go hungry everyday or the ones that are moved from foster care to foster care but we can have an outcry over dogs fighting. True animal cruelty is bad but it showed me that human life gets lets coverage than animals.

  • CarolinaGirl25 Aug 30, 2007

    Stress or not its still not an excuse to abuse or even kill an innocent child. Why take your "stress" and anger out on a child? These people make me sick. All of these stories Im reading lately about children being abused or killed at the hands of their guardians just tears me up. I wouldnt even think to hurt my child in such a way. Probation isnt good enough for these ppl, they need to be punished to the extreme starting with some snipping so they cant have anymore children.

  • claudnc Aug 30, 2007

    wcnc - your point of view can also be seen as selfish. Alot of societies problem is that we only want to raise or look out for our own. We no longer have the concept of community and if I see your child hungry I will feed them. Its so sad we are like this, we use to have an older women in the community that would not mind assisting with keeping the kids and allowing the parent/s to obtain a break. I do agree with sex ed being taught in school I see everyday your girls becoming pregnant. I do not at all blame all the abuse on the young ones - because stupidity knows no age. There also needs to be more safe places where folks can take these kids too and place them with someone who can assist with ensuring the kids are properly cared for. With this the age of a child that qualifies for safe placement needs to be increased. I am so thankful I can make a difference in not only my child but many of these young expecting and mom's lives. There is a future if you have a child at a young age.

  • ncmom65 Aug 30, 2007

    Stress?? As a single mother working full time with no child support, I'll tell you about stress....I never hit/beat/shook/abused my kid.
    It's amazing, you have to have a license to get married, carry a gun, to go fishing, to go hunting, but any doorknob who has reached the age of sexual maturity can reproduce...no questions asked, no application, no suitability testing, no psyciatric testing, no counselling, nothing, just the ability to rut!!

  • chill0913 Aug 30, 2007

    I agree with Mayors post. Us ranting and raving on this website will not do anything. We need to be as outraged as we are when we hear about a dog fight ring. And demand justice. I have been stressed many days from work, home, and school. I have had times when I have wanted to lash out. However, control is the road I have to take. Control of my actions. Not control over an innocent child who can't defend themselves. When my youngest one stomps on that last nerve, and she is a great stomper, I sometimes have to put her in her room. Not to punish her but to give me time to control my emotions. Get real people the only reason people abuse these kids is because its something they have control over and can get the best of. I bet in jail they are straight up PUNKS!

  • bill0 Aug 30, 2007

    Seeing the need for individual responsibility does not necessarily exclude the need for an educational campaign. Obviously, sometimes babies cry - and cry, and cry some more. It isn't that their needs aren't being met - sometime they just cry. Is it frustrating? of course! Can it make you want to bash your head against a wall? Definitely! Is it an excuse to kill a child? No! However, I don't think anyone consciously decides to kill their baby. You really don't need much force to seriously injure a baby - especially and infant. Any sudden jarring or shaking can do it. If we really get the message out about how dangerous those things are, maybe more people would think twice before acting out.

  • rah-rah-rita Aug 30, 2007

    This excuse is disgusting!! Everyone has stress in their lives and don't use it as a reason for abusing their children.

  • Is it Friday yet Aug 30, 2007

    "Parenting can be a challenge, and the demands are too much for some people"

    Unfortunately, we cant identify those people before they make a child.

  • K9Tucker.LoveMYcop Aug 30, 2007

    strolling bones - Blame it on women? Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound? How about a man taking responsiblity for himself?

    As far as stress being a factor in child abuse, I'm sure it is. However, everyone has stress to some degree but not everyone abuses their children. Stop giving abusive parents an EXCUSE for their behavior!