District Attorney writes on importance of Child Abuse Awareness Month

Published 10:00 pm Friday, April 22, 2016

On my first day as district attorney for Henderson, Polk and Transylvania Counties, I drove from Hendersonville to Mission Hospital in Asheville. I was informed that a Henderson County infant was clinging to life after being shaken by the mother’s boyfriend. Upon entering the children’s’ unit at Mission, I was unprepared for what I witnessed. The infant was unconscious and I could barely see him for all the tubes and wires keeping him alive.


The baby’s mother and grandmother were present. According to doctors, the prognosis was not good. Even if the child survived, he had suffered permanent brain trauma and would never enjoy what we consider a normal life. The boyfriend was ultimately convicted of a felony criminal offense and is currently in prison. The child survived for several months, but has since passed away. Unfortunately, my office prosecutes too many cases where children are either physically or sexually abused.

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The month of April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month. In Polk County, you may have noticed blue pinwheels, blue light bulbs at various venues, and a variety of community events designed to bring attention to the issue child abuse.


We live in a time where the opportunities for young people to achieve their dreams are unparalleled. Technology is providing our youth with the ability to create their own careers and businesses. The options for travel and higher education are abundant.


The problem, however, is that we have more children born into unstable homes than ever before. A University of Virginia study shows that there is a decline in marriage among the nearly 60 percent of Americans who have high school but not college educations. Consider that in the 1980s, only 13 percent of children were born outside of marriage among moderately educated mothers. By 2010, the number had risen to 44 percent.


The growing rate, therefore, of illegitimate births into unstable families places thousands of children at risk for problems associated with poverty. These problems include subjecting them to physical abuse or making them vulnerable to sexual abuse. The repercussions are both societal and economic. The cost to taxpayers when stable families fail to form is estimated to be $112 billion annually, or more than $1 trillion per decade.


The positive news is that your community in Polk County is aware of the problems associated with this issue and is working to prevent the abuse of our children. Area churches, members of law enforcement, emergency services personnel, school personnel, medical professionals and social service professionals are all committed to protect our children.


But the duty to protect our area children is the responsibility of everyone. If you are aware of any situation where you suspect that a child is neglected, or worse, abused, please report the matter to the Polk County Sheriff or to your police departments in Columbus, Tryon or Saluda. If social services are needed, then your dedicated professionals at the Department of Social Services will intervene. If law enforcement investigates and determines that a crime has been committed against a child, then an arrest can be made and my office will prosecute the abusive person and seek the strongest jail sentence available.


Every community is judged by how its most vulnerable members are treated. Let us all remain determined and committed to prevent the abuse of our kids so that they can exercise their birthright as an American of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


-Submitted by Greg Newman