- The regular meeting of the Wayne County Commissioners was packed with staff members of the Children and Youth Department and many dispatchers of the Wayne County Emergency Operation Center on Thursday.
Natalie Burns spoke on behalf of Children and Youth and gave statistics regarding the crimes against children throughout the county. "In 2012, there were 78 reports of child abuse" throughout the county. Of those 78 cases, 18 were substantiated and "of those 18 cases, 17 were sexual abuse cases," she said. The other case was one of physical child abuse.
A typical investigatory period lasts between 30-60 days.
Burns also said there are "a lot of changes" coming to the laws currently on the books regarding child abuse. For example, the current laws require proof that the abuse of the child "had criminal intent." She said proving criminal intent is difficult to do. The changes proposed are to "change the laws to what would be a reasonable injury."
Children and Youth Services also has implemented monthly Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meetings with other community investigators, like the district attorney's office and case investigators, to help "pool resources" and better evaluate cases.
"We network about the cases," Burns said. "We put our brains together to go a better job" of assessing cases.
The differences between a physical and sexual abuse case can range from visual to emotional. A child who is the victim of physical abuse will often have visible injuries. It is "much easier" to see when the abuse is of a physical nature. Evidence of physical abuse can be broken bones, or bruises.
In a case of sexual abuse, obtaining physical evidence is more difficult. Burns said she a child "will usually say" a sexual assault happened when they feel safe or will "act out sexually." In the case of child sexual abuse, the victim is taken to a child advocacy center in Scranton that specializes in doing an exam to gather evidence.
"Children rarely tell immediately," she said. This causes a lot of physical evidence left behind from a traumatic sexual event to be gone by the time of examination. "Ninety-five to 97 percent of cases have no physical evidence," Burns said.
The commissioners made a proclamation making April Child Abuse Prevention Month. The proclamation wants to make citizens aware "that child sexual abuse is a horrific problem that needs to be stopped, and is a crime that occurs in secret with a child often being threatened not to tell." It continues to state that everyone is encouraged "to educate themselves in understanding how wide spread child sexual abuse is, the affects these crimes have on children and families, and to speak up if they feel a child may be a victim of sexual assault.
Page 2 of 2 - Anyone wishing to report an act of any type of child abuse is asked to call the state hotline at 1-800-932-0313. All calls are anonymous.
Also present at the meeting were many dispatchers from the Wayne County Emergency Operation Center who were given certificates of appreciation in honor of Telecommunications Month. The dispatchers were honored for their exceptional service to the residents of Wayne County and their ability to stay calm in stressful situations. Also presented at the meeting was the Dispatcher of the Year award, which is voted on by the dispatchers themselves. The recipient of this years award was William McKinnell.
George Kumburis was hired to fill a vacancy as a security lieutenant at the Wayne County Correctional Facility, effective May 6, 2013.
There were four part-time van drivers hired. Those drivers are William J. Gillette of Waymart, Thomas L. Lamberton of Lake Ariel, Kevin Schlosser of Beach Lake and Gerald Zintel of Lake Ariel.
A certificate was drawn in recognition of the 100th birthday of Lawrence Stark, currently residing in Bethany Village