The increase in child abuse cases in Dutchess County was in the newspaper recently, and Hudson Valley Parent asked Kathleen M. Murphy, Executive Director for the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse of Dutchess County
why that was so.
She says, "It's not just Dutchess County, but across the country." And for two main reasons: "The economy is affecting people, and they are taking their frustrations out on the most helpless," she explains, "and also because we are much better at raising awareness and more cases are being reported."
More and more children are being taught how to recognize abuse, being taught about having ownership over their bodies, and that the part of their body covered by their bathing suit is off limits except for doctors "who are making sure you are healthy," and parents, "who are making sure you are clean." Murphy oversees volunteers who are carefully interviewed and screened, and who go into area schools for in-class instruction. "We are invited by area schools right now," she says, and right now it isn't a mandated subject.
What if a parent, or even a child suspects child abuse, either sexual or physical?
"If the child is in immediate danger, drop everything and call 911," Murphy says. "And if you're just not sure, just call us, and one of our advocates will help determine next steps." That whole situation in Penn State, she says, could have been helped if that assistant coach had just called someone."
Kathleen E. Murphy, Executive Director
What if a parent feels that could go over the edge and hurt their child?
"Parents need a safety plan...kids can push you over the edge. Find someone who you can call to say, 'Can you help me out..I just need a break.' Sometimes just talking it out can help. If you don't have someone to call, count to 10, step away from the situation."
What can Hudson Valley Parents do to help?
Volunteer and donate. And, write to your assembly representative to pass Erin's Law.
Erin Merryn, who was sexually abused as a child and is now working to have all 50 states include the mandate that schools include "sexual abuse prevention in the curriculum." Right now, schools only are mandated to cover "stranger danger" or the subject of abductions, but not sexual abuse. Merryn, according to Murphy, explained that in school, she was taught what to do in a tornado or a fire, but not what to do if being sexually abused.
While the organization is funded to solely work for Dutchess County, she says that if anyone, wherever they live, ever has a question, or needs help to call us and we'll find you help."
We can be reached by phone at (845) 454-0595
To report a suspected case of child abuse in New York State, please call 1-800-342-3720. To get 24-hour parenting support, please call 1-800-342-7472.
The Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse of Dutchess County
249 Hooker Ave.
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603