There are not too many more shocking things to hear than a young father biting the nose off of his infant child. In a story that made national news, 18-year-old Fairfield resident Joshua Cooper was arrested on suspicion of biting off a third of his 1-month-old son’s nose. The child also suffered a skull fracture and brain hemorrhage.
Cooper has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of child abuse and aggravated mayhem.
Responses to the articles on the Daily Republic website, other news websites and Facebook show angry readers wishing the perpetrator be killed in prison if he’s convicted. That’s understandable. You hurt a baby and I’ve got no sympathy for you.
But often many of those arrested for shaking a baby or physically battering a child don’t fit our stereotypical image of a monster beforehand. Most people who harm children are overwhelmed, frustrated and unskilled in parenting and have poor coping skills. It could be your son or daughter, friend or sibling. It only takes seconds of losing their temper to inflict permanent harm on an infant.
Cases like Cooper’s get headlines for their shocking violence, but abuse and neglect go on all the time around us. According to Safe Horizons, there 3.6 million reports of child abuse a year in this country with 80 percent of the victims under the age of 4.
To combat this problem in the long term, we’re going to need more education on child abuse and shaken baby syndrome in our schools and other forums. We need more young people taking parenting classes and anger management courses. And yes, we need increased use of contraception so those ill prepared to handle children don’t have them.
After a September 2012 shaken baby case, Fairfield police purchased a RealCare shaken baby simulator doll to demonstrate and educate the public on how little force it takes to permanently injure a child. A second doll was donated and several demonstrations were presented last year. We need more of them and more public participation.
It’s dismaying that mandatory reporters like teachers, social workers and police report the majority of child abuse cases. Parents and relatives make up nearly 14 percent while neighbor reporting is less than 5 percent. We can do better than that.
An abused child is everyone’s business. A third of abused children grow up to become abusers. According to a National Institute of Justice study, abused children are 11 times more likely to engage in criminal activity as teens and nearly three times as likely to do so as adults.
It’s hard to call the authorities on a spouse, relatives or friends when you suspect abuse. I know because I’ve had to do it. But to me, the child’s safety was more important than that guy’s friendship. “Forsaken baby syndrome” leaves a child at risk.
If you see something, say something. Call Solano County Child Protective Services at 1-800-544-8696. If you’re overwhelmed and need help, visit www.solano.networkofcare.org/mh/index.aspx for helpful services. Peace.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at [email protected]