Editorial: Child abusers and their accomplices

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 5, 2016

In the movie “Spotlight,” journalists from the Boston Globe start out investigating sexual abuse reports involving a priest. The reporters come across a victim’s advocate who urges them to keep digging, using these words:

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them.”

In other words, when people know about abuse and fail to report it, they are complicit in the crime. They allow it to go on.

Likewise, it takes a village to stop child abuse — as it did recently in the case of a local infant.

Rowan County investigators learned during a break-in investigation that one of the suspects had shaken and injured a baby. Detectives contacted the Department of Social Services, which looked into the situation and put the child in the custody of a relative. The relative took the baby to a doctor, who found the infant had broken ribs, a broken leg and a fractured arm that had begun to heal.

The 8-week-old was said to have been shaken so hard that blood was coming from the infant’s mouth. That in itself is horrific. Multiplying the tragedy, investigators say the child’s mother and one other person knew about the attack but did not report it or seek treatment for the baby. That conspiracy of silence could have been lethal.

North Carolina law requires all adults who believe a child has been abused to report those suspicions to authorities. You don’t have to have proof. If you have reasonable cause to suspect abuse, you are compelled to report it, and you don’t need anyone’s permission to do so. Contact the Department of Social Services in the county where the child lives and share any information you have.

The law requiring people to report suspected abuse is essential to the protection of children in North Carolina. Abusers tend to dominate family members and isolate them from others. If you suspect abuse, you could be that child’s only lifeline. In 2013, some 25 children in the state did not get help in time; they died at the hands of a parent or caregiver.  It would be better to take a chance and report abuse you might be wrong about than to wait and find out you were right all along.

Prevent Child Abuse Rowan has seen a steady increase in the number of children it interviews, from 113 in 2013 to 244 in 2015. That’s a good thing, agency officials say. Increased numbers reflect increased awareness on the part of adults and children. Obviously, though, some people have not gotten the message. If you suspect abuse report it. A child’s life could be at stake.