By Keri Adams
Last month, a 2-year-old girl was taken to Timpanogos Hospital with a fractured skull and bruises on her body, indicating physical and sexual abuse.
The girl was taken immediately to Primary Children”s Hospital, where she remained in a coma until this week.
Orem Police Lt. Doug Edwards said the girl has been taken off the respirator and is breathing on her own, but he is still unsure how she will fare. Edwards said the girl”s 22-year-old stepfather is being charged with aggravated assault and rape.
“In the case of this little girl, if she lives, she”s probably going to be physically impaired in some manner,” said Anne Freimuth, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Utah, a non-profit organization. “Although she”s very young, the body remembers the experiences. Her childhood is robbed and so are future relationships.”
This situation is causing alarm in Utah County, as more and more child abuse cases are being reported.
“It”s a problem that exists among us every day, but that we just don”t want to look at,” Freimuth said. “It takes one child to get hurt as badly as this little girl for everyone to say ”Oh, this really does happen.””
In 2003, Utah Child and Family Services reported almost 7,000 cases of child abuse, with more than 1,000 of those occurring in Utah County, said Amanda Rader, supervisor of intake for the Department of Child and Family Services in Provo.
Rader said once children have been abused, they have a greater chance of being abused again.
“She [the Orem girl] is either going to grow up to be a victim the rest of her life, because she”s already learned she”s not worth more than that, or she”s going to grow up to be an aggressor because she doesn”t want to be a victim anymore,” Freimuth said.
According to the Division of Child and Family Services Web site, the perpetrators in most child abuse cases are parents or close relatives of the victims.
Freimuth said people who abuse children are usually adults who haven”t matured past the point of thinking about their own needs first.
“Abuse happens when adults are not taking the responsibility of parenting,” Freimuth said. “They”re still looking at their own gratification. If a child cries, the child is bothering them, rather than thinking, ”What”s bothering my child.””
Barbara Lovell, a therapist for the Family Support and Treatment Center, said stress is also a factor in child abuse. She suggested stressed parents reach out and get support by talking to a neighbor, a friend or a bishop or clergy leader before stress becomes a problem. She also suggested parents find an outlet to relieve their stress, recognize how this problem hurts their family and commit themselves to dealing with their issues.
Lovell said emotional abuse is the most common — and underreported — form of abuse.
“People who would never cross the line of sexual or physical abuse, emotionally abuse their children everyday,” Lovell said.
She said parents emotionally abuse their children by scapegoating them, controlling them or playing mind games with them.
“Everybody”s home should be their castle, and we should all have rights in our home,” Freimuth said. “But nobody should be allowed to have a torture chamber, and this is what happens in some homes.”