Local Doctors Concerned about Child Abuse Deaths

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Child abuse in Duval County is a growing problem and what you may not know is that about 80 percent of the abuse is inflicted by a parent.

On Wednesday, Donald James Crystalus was charged with murder in the death of his 4-month-old son, Gabriel. According to JSO, Crystalus caused severe head injuries to his son which led to his death.

President of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Michael Aubin, says the number of suspected child abuse cases is concerning.

According to Aubin, there have been 131 cases of suspected abuse reported at the hospital so far this year and 25 of those came in the last three months.

“In the last week we have seen three cases of suspected child abuse here at Wolfson,” said Aubin. “That is really hard on everyone, including the staff.”

According to Aubin, all three children died.

“These cases happen usually one at a time….everyone says, ‘oh, isn’t that horrible?’ and then it goes away and when you see three in a row and we have another one that we are investigating…you realize have to do something different in this community,” said Aubin.

Carmella Prescott works for the Daniel Kids Foundation. She spends her days visiting homes and speaking with parents and children in abusive relationships. She says she has sympathy for everyone involved.

“They are not monsters, they are humans and they are just like us. They have stress and they have things going on and they got lost in the moment and they didn’t have the help they need at that time and it’s sad,” said Prescott.

According to Prescott, the numbers of child abuse cases are rising in Duval County. The trend for child abuse in Duval County mirrors the statewide trend and the trend for abuse is increasing over the past few years. For example, in 2003-2006 there were 2,711 child abuse cases reported for children ages 5-11. Then, in 2010-2012 there were 2,904 reported, per the Florida Department of Health.

In Florida, there are over four million children in in the population and there have been over 223,000 reports of abuse with over 500 cases involving child deaths. Nationally in that time period, there were over 1,500 reports of child abuse and neglect deaths.

The recent tragedy where a Duval County father is charged for killing his son for crying too much has this topic of child abuse on the forefront. First Coast News reached out to expert at Project SOS with tips on what parents should do when their anger spiral out of control.

Jacquelyn Hatcher is a certified life coach with Project SOS. She teaches parents where to turn when they get angry.

“It all starts with a Trigger,” said Hatcher. “Usually triggers happen because of past relationship problem, something you’ve seen in your past…or as a child and you don’t learn how to work through.”

Hatcher says communication is key.

“What we promote is for parents to take a break…breathing activities. Maybe stepping away from the situation. I truly promote exercise,” said Hatcher.

She says it is important to remove yourself from the situation and go for a 10 or 15 minute walk, breath in the fresh air and leave the situation before it gets worse.

“Or into a room and do step exercises and breath in and out and in and out,” said Hatcher.

She says this allows the brain to disengage from our anger and gives the mind a chance to process what is actually happening.
Moving from anger…to frustration…to realization.

“We try to teach couples to use code words in the house that means stop…like ‘red Light,'” said Hatcher.

Use sticky notes or write signs around the house with words like, ‘stop.’

Stress balls are also proven to relieve stress and anger. Hatcher also notes mirrors as a key tool. She says it’s not silly to talk to yourself and talk yourself out of anger.

“Look in the mirror and say things like, “I’m mad, I am sad and I am angry and I must deal with this situation’ and it helps,” said Hatcher.

Source: First Coast News