April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Child abuse is not something that happens “somewhere else,” as we shall see.
At least one case of fatal child abuse, as well as years of lesser abuse cases, is documented in Chickasaw County.
News item: Lydia Berry was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison by the Chickasaw County Circuit Court.
On Sept. 15, 2005, the jury found Berry guilty of the murder of B.F. -- initials were used to protect the identity of the victim's family -- while engaged in the commission of the felonious abuse of the child.
The court denied Berry’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or in the alternative a new trial. Berry appealed, but the court’s conviction was affirmed in 2007.
Child abuse is defined as any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk or serious harm, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS).
With that history in mind, April is a good time to remember that in good times, as well as the current tough economic times, child abuse cuts across social, racial and economic lines.
Child abuse victims are found in penthouses and shotgun shacks.
It's a tragedy that often happens in a child's house -- where a youngster should feel the most safe and secure -- out of sight of concerned adults.
It's a crime carried out by those whom the youngster loves and depends on. Its victims are often too young to understand or speak out or defend themselves.
It's a dirty little secret.
No one likes to think that somewhere, every day, youngsters are being slugged into unconsciousness, burned, starved, deprived of proper medical attention and proper clothing, and in the worst cases, killed by those they only wanted to love.
Nonetheless, it happens.
In Chickasaw County for 2016 -- the most recent year for which figures are available --there were 50 evidenced reports of child abuse as a part of 156 total reports, according to the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
In 2019, there were 9,377 reported victims of child abuse in Mississippi, based on state submissions to National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) of alleged child abuse and neglect. The year 2019 is the most recent one for which state figures are available.
This state ranked 20th in the nation in that category.
The state of New York led the nation with 67,269 youngsters; Vermont was lowest with 861.
Child abuse is a dirty secret that is huge below the surface. Social workers estimate for every abuse case reported, three more aren't.
Why the abuse? Theories vary. Perhaps it's the pressures of single parenting. In a tough economy ravaged by Covid-19, perhaps a lost job triggers a blow-up, and someone takes it out on a kid. Perhaps too many adults, for whatever reason, treat kids as property instead of people.
In one social worker’s words: "It's do this, and bam bam if you don't."
Here are two things you can do to help prevent history from repeating itself in this country.
If you know something, even suspect something, call the Chickasaw County Department of Human Services at 6624563978.
To report abuse or neglect, call the Abuse Hotline at 1-800-222-8000.
Help put the brakes on child abuse.
The call you make could save a Chickasaw County youngster from getting some real breaks at home.