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Stress Often a Factor in Child Abuse Cases

According to Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, most people who abuse children are ordinary people overwhelmed by stress.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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.


Adam Owens, Reporter
Minnie Bridgers, Web Editor

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