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Protect Our Children

Protect Our Children

Brooklyn-On Tuesday, May 15th Shemen Cato was charged for murder, manslaughter, and aggravated assault in the death of her 9-year-old daughter Shalom Guifarro. 9 Year Old Cries for Help  The incident in the Crown Heights apartment has family members, close friends, and members of the community completely shocked. Reports say that little Shalom died due to blunt force trauma to the head and body with an extension cord and broom. Apparently, Shalom attempted to flee the beating by hiding under the bed. Cato reportedly lifted the bed, dropping it over her young daughter’s head. She never got up again. 

The medical examiner later found that multiple blunt force impact injuries to Shalom’s face, head, and body, which led to internal bleeding and ultimately killed her, documents state.

Shalom was not the only victim during this violent incident; Her older sister also endured the horrific, two-hour beating. The child called the police when she noticed that her younger sister was unresponsive. Reports state that Cato’s rage was fueled by a missing tablet. 

Was this the first attack that these siblings had to endure? Presumably not. Neighbors declare that they frequently witnessed Cato verbally abusing and shoving her daughters around out in the street for little to no reason. According to witnesses, she displayed the same tendencies towards her two pet dogs. Mother Charged With Murder But a mother who yells, does not equate to a mother who kills. What are the signs that the general public can look for in regard to child abuse?

Determining the Signs

Sam Innis, an educator in the NYC, Los Angeles, and Ithaca City School Districts for a total of 16 years, has some insight on the warning signs. He stated that a teacher’s response to child abuse is specifically outlined in his job description. “ Teachers are mandated reporters and are extensively trained in recognizing and responding to child abuse,” said Innis. “ A mandated reporter is required to report any suspected abusive, neglect, or mistreatment. Teachers, school officials, physicians, nurses, and more are all mandated to report suspected abuse. Quite simply, this means notifying local child services of the suspected abuse so that they can investigate.”

Vigilant teachers are integral, due to the verity that children over the age of five, are required to come to school every single day. However, despite having daily access and interactions with a child, conditions at home may still remain a mystery. Innis shared some of the difficulties he has had with distinguishing abuse from the typical moody adolescent phase.  

“It can be difficult with high school students because they hide it better than younger students,” confessed Innis. “I’ve talked to the families and counselors of students who I’ve been concerned about, and sometimes the problems are attributed to the kids being teenagers. There is also a very real mental health crisis happening with our children in our country which makes things challenging as well.”

As previously mentioned, in the case of Shemene Cato and her two daughters, neighbors did not see any physical abuse, but did note that she was verbally abusive to her children. Sometimes, verbal abuse is an indicator of physical abuse, which tends to be done behind closed doors due to fear of reprisal. Innis shared that he has seen possible signs of verbal abuse such as a child being overly afraid of a parent, guardian, or parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend. 

“In one instance, a high schooler of mine was unable to focus or do anything at school, but she begged for me to not contact home or make any waves,” recalled Innis. “I first went to my supervisor before calling any hotlines. It turns out that the girl had been raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and the supervisor had a plan in place to help the kid. That didn’t mean that the student could necessarily succeed in school right away. This was a difficult situation. The trauma was extreme.”

According to the Child help National Abuse Hotline, approximately 5 children die every day from child abuse and neglect. Child Abuse Statistics More specifically, In 2019, state agencies identified an estimated 1,840 children who died as a result of abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, experts state that these numbers are devastatingly incorrect as many child fatalities are not counted by some state agencies. 

Thinking of an innocent, defenseless child being mistreated is taxing enough. But another matter of importance is the effect of abuse when the victims grow into adulthood. Studies say that substance abuse is strongly linked to child maltreatment. 

In addition to this, 14% of all men in prison and 36% of women in prison in the U.S. were abused as children. Criminality and drug abuse in the U.S. would be a lot lower, if children, during their most vulnerable years, are nurtured to become better people. Many people think the key to stopping such a vicious cycle is by encouraging children to find their voice. 

“Counselors, teachers, and other advocates play a huge part in empowering students to speak up sometimes,” declared Innis. “The nature of the abuse is that kids are scared to say anything. It’s astounding how impactful childhood trauma can be, which makes it imperative that we do all in our power to protect kids, prevent abuse, and unconditionally love kids who have experienced trauma. 

Thumbnail Credits: Adelola Tinubu

Sources

  1. 9-Year-Old Cries for Help  
  2. Mother Charged With Murder 
  3. Child Abuse Statistics 
  4. Adelola Tinubu from Current Affairs Times interviewed high school teacher, Sam Innis.
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