According to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 24,000 cases of child abuse were reported in the state of Indiana in 2009, putting the state’s abuse rate well above the national average.
But Indiana University professor, Dr. Debby Herbenick, says she doesn’t see the number as a negative, even though it demonstrates a problem. Speaking on WFIU’s Noon Edition, Herbenick says she sees the number as a sign the state is succeeding in getting more abuse cases reported.
Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Steve Galvin also chooses to see this number in a positive light. Galvin says the general public is now more aware of reporting abuse cases.
“There is a legal duty that you have in the state of Indiana to report any abuse and neglect that you become aware of,” Galvin says. “There’s a criminal sanction if you fail to report it.”
Herbenick says having an advocate outside the family, like a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, is important for abused children.
“So to have an advocate, to have a CASA there with them, can be very reassuring,” Herbenick says. “It can give them hope, which is one of the things we all need when we face any type of adversity.”
Herbenick does urge caution in the way the state responds to trauma, though, saying it must be supportive of the child and aimed at preventing further harm.
The report released from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can be downloaded here: 2009 Child Maltreatment Report