‘Family and Friends Most Common Alleged Child Abusers’
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – In an effort to promote awareness about child abuse and honor its victims, the Twin Falls Police Department has decorated its front lawn with pinwheels.
“Pinwheels represent childhood,” Police Chief Craig Kingsbury said, noting it’s also the emblem of Pinwheels for Prevention, a nationwide program that coordinates with local agencies to help fight child abuse.
Kingsbury was at the State Capitol on Friday where he spoke about abuse and what can be done to help fight it. One of the ways is to bring awareness to citizens that abuse happens in their own communities and, perhaps, in their neighborhoods.
“It was an honor for me to be able to speak at the State Capitol,” he said. “April is child abuse prevention month. This is a way to help bring awareness about child abuse and start the conversations.”
Unfortunately, he said, child abuse is more prevalent in the community than people might think.
“It’s a substantial number of cases that our officers work on,” Kingsbury said. “Child abuse is more prevalent than the general community either knows about or wants to hear about. It spreads across ethnicities and socioeconomic boundaries; it’s across the board.”
Child abuse can take many different forms, he said, including physical abuse, verbal abuse, neglect and silence, and sexual abuse.
In abuse cases the police department partners with the Department of Health and Welfare and St. Luke’s CARES, the latter which stands for Children at Risk and Evaluation Services and primarily investigates and treats victims of sexual abuse. In 2015, CARES helped 300 children who were victims of abuse – about an average yearly number, said Program Coordinator Anne Tierney. Forty-three percent of the victims were between the ages of 7 and 12; 71 percent of them were females.
“Locally and nationally this age group is always the highest population of kids seen,” she said, noting that females are the largest number targeted. “It’s usually a 60-40 split.”
Further statistics paint the grim picture of abuse. Eighteen percent of alleged abuse comes from the child’s biological parent, Tierney said.
- 32 percent from other relative
- 26 percent from other known person
- 8 percent from a step parent
- 8 percent from a parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend
- 4 percent from an unknown person
“It’s not stranger danger in the park that we’re talking about,” she said. “Most of the time – about 90 percent of the time – the child knows the alleged abuser well.”
CARES, which serves all eight counties in the Magic Valley, the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, and even northern Nevada, acts as a neutral fact-finder, Tierney said. During an investigation, among other things, the child and caregiver meet with a forensic interviewer at the home. The process of the investigation is explained. Another appointment is made in the office, where parties meet, questions are asked, information is gathered and so forth. A separate interview is conducted with the child, and he or she is medically examined. Counseling options are discussed.
Tierney echoed Chief Kingsbury: “Sexual abuse is prevalent in all socioeconomic classes, in all religions and races,” she said. “It has no boundaries. It’s not more prevalent in one category than another.”
If you suspect a child is being abused in any form, contact the police department and Health and Welfare. Kingsbury said it’s better to be safe than sorry and he’d rather have his department check into a potential matter, even if it winds up not being anything, than leave it alone.
“That’s what I told the people at the Statehouse today,” he said Friday afternoon, noting the police department would determine after its initial investigation if it’s a legitimate case. Once a case is underway the child can receive the counseling he or she may need, he said, and the child is protected from further abuse.
“We do want to protect the children,” Kingsbury said. “We want to protect them and get them the help they need so they can go on to become productive citizens.”