Forensic science lends a hand with detecting abuse

February 12, 2014

New research reveals that forensic science has a lot to offer the process of identifying children who are abused or neglected.

 

New research reveals that forensic science has a lot to offer the process of identifying children who are abused or neglected.

Forensic science experts from North Carolina State University have put together a compendium of forensic research to help others identify children caught in abusive or neglectful situations. Their review outlines common diagnostic characteristics and patterns of nonaccidental injuries and neglect.

The experts say that certain techniques commonly used in forensic science can be very useful in detecting certain indicators of abuse.

For example, the researchers point out that starvation of a child can be difficult to prove, but using a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scan, such as those used to detect osteoporosis, can reveal low bone density, a sign of malnourishment. The stunted growth of a tibia is another strong sign that a child has been starved.

Similarly, the investigators compiled a list of skeletal injuries that are highly unlikely to be caused by accidents, and, therefore, are potential indicators of abuse. One of those is a rib fracture.

The research also talks about ascertaining that a child’s injuries seem consistent with any stories or explanations received from caregivers.

The investigators point out that the information can be used both for postmortem assessment and when examining living children who may need rescuing from an abusive situation.

According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, whose latest statistics are for 2005, an estimated 3.3 million referrals of child abuse or neglect were received by public social service or child protection services agencies. About 900,000 of these were later confirmed to be victims of abuse or neglect.


 

 

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