Child abuse focus of day-long seminar

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 25, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – Child abuse detection, prevention and investigation was the focus of a special workshop held at the Demopolis Civic Center Thursday.

“Everyone who is here has a role to play in the protection of children,” said Charlotte Webb, who coordinated the program for the Marengo County Department of Human Resources.

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Mental health professionals, social workers, medical personnel, law enforcement, foster home and day care center representatives and counselors were provided tips on investigating child abuse and child sexual abuse from Liz Martin, a licensed practical counselor with the Southeast Alabama Child Advocacy Center.

On the local level, Webb said, a multi-disciplinary team investigates child abuse and provides support for the victim through a number of approaches.

The day’s seminar, provided through a $1,500 grant from the state’s Child Justice Task Force, presented a multi-disciplined approach to about 60 attendees.

“Today’s focus has been on child sexual abuse,” Webb said.

Demopolis Police Det. Sgt. Tim Soronen said the seminar presented solid techniques for handling child abuse cases, and characterized the problem in the Demopolis area as about average.

“It no more, but no less, of a problem as in other cities our size,” he said.

Soronen credited strong prosecution as one reason child abuse may not be very rampant in Marengo County.

“The prosecutions for child abuse are high,” he said. “Greg Griggers actively pursues and prosecutes these cases.”

Martin categorized four major types of child abuse for her audience: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment/abuse.

Easily detected to the trained eye, physical abuse indicators include scars, bruises, burns abrasions, damage to internal organs, and injuries usually are visible on a child’s back from the neck to the knees.

In Alabama, the state defines two types of neglect.

Severe neglect means the negligent failure of a parent or caretaker to protect the child from severe malnutrition or medically diagnosed, non-organic failure to thrive.

General neglect means the negligent failure of a parent or caretaker to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care or supervision when no physical injury to the child has occurred.

Sexual abuse is any activity sought to attain sexual gratification in the presence of a child.

Emotional abuse includes excessively verbally assaulting a child. Belittling, screaming, threatening, sarcasm, unpredictable responses or inconsistent behavior are examples of verbal abuse, she said.