Child abuse cases; How they’re investigated, the challenges of them and the signs of abuse

Signs may include behavior changes, inappropriately trying to touch other children or adults, and a change in sleep patterns.
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 7:04 PM EDT
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IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WLUC) - “As far as the case numbers go with Child Protective Services, we haven’t seen an increase over 2020 with COVID, but we did see over the school year an increase in assisting the schools with truancy,” said Marquette City Police Detective Captain Gregory Kinonen.

He said multiple unexcused absences could be a sign of child neglect and abuse, and many investigations may begin because of it.

In Iron Mountain, The Caring House Child Advocacy Center conducts about 100 interviews per year in Dickinson, Iron, and neighboring Wisconsin counties related to child abuse and sexual abuse, but case investigations do not begin at the center.

“All of the cases that come through here have to come through law enforcement, Child Protective Services, or the Prosecutor’s Office. There’s a team approach in place. We work as a multi-disciplinary team,” said Child Advocacy Center Coordinator and Forensic Interviewer Karla Lehmann.

Lehmann said when it comes to these investigations there’s challenges along the way.

“Oftentimes there’s delayed reports so there’s not evidence to collect because it’s been long washed away. In addition to that, it’s getting children to open up and talk about something they’re worried about getting in trouble for.”

And many instances of child abuse are done in private, which means it’s not always obvious that it’s happening, but children and teens may show warning signs.

“For sexual abuse I would say that the biggest first indicator that a child is being abused is that they’re talking about it, and sometimes they’re not talking about it in very clear language. Sometimes they might say something like ‘somebody’s messing with me,’” said Lehmann.

Lehmann said other signs may include behavior changes like angering quickly and becoming depressive, inappropriately trying to touch other children or adults, a change in sleep patterns, or nightmares and night terrors.

If you believe a child or teen is a victim of child abuse, call local law enforcement or CPS.

The Child Advocacy Center does accept donations of toys, coloring supplies, new clothing, gift cards, and more for visiting kids in need.

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