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Need tougher penalties for SBS perpetrators

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POSTED April 26, 2009 2:03 a.m.
Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
 With this being shaken baby syndrome (SBS) awareness week, and me being the mother of a victim of SBS I feel it is my duty to help make sure people become aware. Because of this I did a little research, although it became difficult at times, and collect statistics I feel people need to know.

• 46 to 52% of adults and teenagers do not know that shaking a baby could be dangerous.

• Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) estimates that SBS neglect and abuse  kills 5.4 out of every 100;000 children under the age of four annually. CDC also estimates that misclassification of childhood and an infant death means this figure should be closer to 11.6 per 100,000. That would mean there are more shaken baby syndrome deaths then our country’s overall murder rate which is at 10 per 100,000.

• Shaken baby syndrome accounts for an estimated 10 to 12% of all deaths due to neglect or abuse on a child.

• SBS is the most common cause of mortality, and accounts for the most long term disabilities in infants and young children due to physical abuse.

• Approximately 1 in 4 of all children inflicted with SBS dies.

• It has been medically proven that a baby can fall three stories and not get as seriously injured as a shaken baby.

• When a child is shaken out of anger or frustration, the force is multiplied 5 to 10 times more than it would be if a child simply tripped or fell.

• Researchers reenacted a shaken baby syndrome case with a doll the same weight and size of an infant. The researchers showed that an adult could shake a child two to four times per second. It was also proven that these acts of violence usually lasted for 5 to 10 seconds each shake causing severe damage.

• Perpetrators : Almost 80% of perpetrators are male.

• 50% are natural parents to child.

• 17% are not relatives but know the family.

• 17% are mothers’ boyfriends.

• 6% are step parents.

• 10% other.

  If you ask me these are sad and scary statistics. There are quite a few cases of SBS where no criminal charges are brought, and the cases where charges are brought usually lead to plea bargains. These plea bargains usually lead to extremely light sentences that come nowhere near enough punishment for the perpetrators in these crimes of abuse. Two perfect examples of this is that little boy I read about in this newspaper that survived for awhile with his issues caused by the abuse done on him. This boy’s injuries led to his death but because of a plea bargain his father took he now cannot be charged with this child’s death. This man is only doing 12 years.
The second example is my son’s case. My son’s biological father took a plea bargain. His father plead guilty to injuring my son, and because of it being his first felony offense he only received one year prison time and three years probation. My son almost died from his injuries and now will suffer from severe disabilities for the rest of his life and only four years in return. That is what we are supposed to consider justice. Sadly I actually found websites claiming shaken baby syndrome doesn’t exist and is just misdiagnoses on the part of medical professionals. I’m sorry but my son’s injuries which consisted of broken bones and head trauma consistent with a major car wreck could not have happened without the neglect or abuse by my son’s biological father.

Why people are not more out raged by this I don’t understand. Why people are not putting more pressure on legislators to make stricter laws for these perpetrators and on district attorneys to fully prosecute these cases, instead of worrying about what a loss might do to their political career. Remember folks D.A.’s are voted in not hired. I also wouldn’t mind SBS, and its effects on infants to be taught in both sex education and prenatal classes. Maybe the more people that are aware of this it will become less likely to happen and prosecutors will find it easier to bring these cases to trial. Why do these cases have to lead to a child’s death before we hear about it and people finally demand justice?
Teri-Lynn Sadlowski
April 25, 2009
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