The Onondaga County Commissions Office says there is a "sharp increase" in child abuse cases in northern counties in New York State and especially in Onondaga County. Deputy Commissioner of Social Services Brian McKee says the number of child abuse cases increased last year and is increasing even more this year. He says they "received more child protective concerns this year than in actually the first quarter in any other year."
The Executive Director of McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Site Julie Cecile says in this first quarter, the Site's medical team saw 77, which is 22 cases more than the first quarter of last year. Over half of the cases dealt with kids under six years old, and almost half involved sexual abuse.
McMahon/Ryan and the Commissions Office define child abuse as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Emotional abuse can include maltreatment and neglect.
Onondaga County Sheriff Department deals with only physical and sexual abuse. Sergeant Jack Schmidt of the abused persons unit says on a slow day, the unit can see two or three cases. He says he thinks the number of cases being reported is also increasing. People were once scared to report cases of abuse because of social norms, but they are now making the process more comfortable. He said it was even more uncomfortable for male children who were victims of sexual abuse by another man. "Not only is there stigma that you're the victim of a sex crime," he said. "But you'er also the victim of a homosexual act, and people were very uncomfortable talking about that because they are openly admitting that tehy were involved in a homosexual relationship."
Anne Galloway, a nurse at the Child Abuse Referral and Evaluation (CARE) program at SUNY Upstate Medical University says the most cases the program sees involve sexual abuse. She says lately they've seen around the same number of patients. But they have seen an increase in physical abuse cases.
Julie Cecile of McMahon/Ryan says she thinks physical abuse is increasing because of the poor economy. She says "people are getting more and more frustrated in their lives and the easiest target is the littlist of the little."
Cecile thinks the biggest problem is lack of community awareness. She says people do not know what is going on and therefore do not know how to stop it. McMahon/Ryan recently started putting up posters to make people aware. Cecile says it's important so people can see then and "understand that this is a problem and that they need to pick up the phone and they need to call."
Sgt. Schmidt says he thinks the community is aware of child abuse. He says they need to continue to make the process comfortable so people keep report cases and it's important for mandated reporters to be aware of child abuse signs.
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**Picture taken from syracuse.com; pinwheels set up for child abuse awareness month