"Most parents are not aware that serious harm may be caused by shaking a child, some which is revealed only after a few years," said CEO of the Council for the Child, Dr. Yitzhak Kadman.
The Council has been running an advocacy campaign on the issue for some three years, among parents, caregivers and professionals in medicine, nursing, social welfare and education. However, Dr. Kadman believes "this is not enough and we must explain and point out the dangers and suggest alternatives to shaking and dealing with crying babies, in order to prevent more serious tragedies. We estimate that every year, 70 children die as a result of shaking.”
Part of the lack of knowledge and data, Dr. Kadman said, is due to the fact that Israel does not investigate enough the circumstances of the deaths of children under one year of age.
According to 1989’s reporting obligation law, social services handles close to 50,000 reports of injury or suspected child abuse every year. About 5,000 police reports come to the Ministry of Social Affairs from health services, hospitals and community clinics. "We know for a fact that not all incidents are reported and some of the cases that come to the hospitals are not identified because there are not enough trained medical personnel," said Professor Asher Ben-Arieh, director of the Haruv Institute – an organization which specializes in training professionals and does research in the field of child abuse.
The parents of shaken infant twins in court (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
In regard to the present case, Ben-Arieh said, "This is a case where health authorities identified a suspect who would not have been identified without professional knowledge and the training acquired by staff at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. They noted that the symptoms were similar in the two babies. It turned on a warning light, because the probability that it was caused unintentionally went down.”
Lovely couple, do not believe they did this
The institute headed by Ben-Arieh spent the last year offering over 10 training courses and supplemental education to medical teams. He said, "We are talking about two-year courses for physicians and continuing education programs for nurses, there are tools to identify whether a certain break is deliberate or not. In other cases, we have tests to identify whether there was penetration or injury to the genitals and tests to determine whether cuts are on purpose, or were caused by accident. We learn how to recognize, what to do once recognized, who to report to and how to report.”
Ben Arieh explained that “‘shaken baby syndrome’ is caused because, among other reasons, babies have weak necks. When a parent shakes him hard, the body structure enhances the shaking and can cause severe head injuries. Many times, it does not happen on purpose, young parents think that if shake a baby while holding him tightly, he will calm down and stop crying.”
The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Monday extended by three days the arrest of both parents suspected of abusing their infant twins, who remain hospitalized. The parents continue to deny the allegations.
Neighbors were shocked by their arrests. Said one, "This is a lovely couple, I cannot believe they did something like this."Another neighbor said, " We are in shock, they look fine." Said a third neighbor, " I cannot believe they did this. This is a gentle, good couple.”
Gilad Morag contributed to this report
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