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Once a child abuse case has been reported, officials say it is “frighteningly common” to hear a neighbor, family friend or someone else familiar with the child say they suspected something but didn’t report it.
“You’ll have a lot of people going, ‘Gosh, I should have done something,’” said Detective Sgt. Brian Graham of the Elizabethtown Police Department.
Joel Griffith, a member of the state’s Child Fatality or Near Fatality Review Panel and director of services and programs for Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, said it is common to hear someone say they suspected something was happening or saw bruises on the child.
“Routinely, you hear people say, ‘I knew something was going on,’” he said.
For whatever reason, Graham said, many witnesses don’t want to cause trouble or intrude in what they believe is another’s private life.
According to Kentucky Revised Statute 620.030, every Kentuckian is required to report suspected child abuse by contacting the Cabinet for Health and Family Services or local law enforcement.
The cabinet has a 24-hour hotline, 877-597-2331, which Graham said is the best avenue to pursue because it allows callers to report the suspected abuse anonymously. There also is an online option, https://prd.chfs.ky.gov/ReportAbuse, which is available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The report goes directly to the region where the victim lives, Graham said, and a case worker has 72 hours to investigate the claim and contact law enforcement.
If the child is believed to be in imminent danger, witnesses should contact law enforcement, he said.
Graham and Griffith said there likely are more cases of child abuse or neglect that go unreported than those that are investigated by police or social workers.
Physical abuse or neglect, Griffith said, is a crime that occurs within the confines of a family home rather than in public.
“We can assume it occurs more frequently than reported,” he said.
Sarah Bennettcan be reached at (270) 505-1750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.