Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott says child abuse affects not only children but also the entire community. It’s essential to raise awareness, to save children and to minimize the long-term effects of child abuse.
Northcott has seen the negative impacts of child abuse.
“It is something, unfortunately, we deal with quite regularly,” Northcott said. “It ruins relationships, trust and the lives of so many people just by the long-term impact it has on the individual who has been victimized by that type of behavior. Whether it be physical abuse or sexual abuse, it has a detrimental impact, not just the moment of the trauma. It is much more prevalent than a lot of people want to know or would recognize in this community.”
Child abuse can lead to injuries, even death. In 2020, there were four investigations in Coffee County involving the death of a child.
“The damaging impact to the individual is the immediate impact of physical abuse or sexual abuse – certainly broken bones, concussions,” Northcott said. “We have had those instances of sexual abuse that result in pregnancies. And then, beyond that, is the destruction of families, destruction of the ability for the victim to connect with others. It’s just damaging to the emotional wellbeing of the individual. Whether it be physical abuse or sexual abuse, it permeates into marriages, into the ability to parent. If it goes untreated, undiagnosed and undealt with, then there are long-term consequences that impact the community as a whole. The more the destruction to the family within the community, then obviously, the more the negative impact to the community as a whole.”
Raising awareness can help solve the problem.
“Raising awareness is important for the benefit of the victims – to get them out of that abusive relationship as soon as possible,” Northcott said. “(Also), you have to understand the abusers are often family members. Community (members) need to identify some of the red flags that are indicators of child abuse, so they can then report it. Then proper intervention can occur, whether it be through the Department of Children’s Services or law enforcement, or both. At that point, organizations like the Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center can help begin the healing process for the emotional damage in particular that has occurred to that child, and hopefully, minimize and mitigate the long-term effects of this type of abuse.”
Every member of the community can help.
“Know that you can make a difference,” Northcott said. “It is morally incumbent upon us but, also, legally incumbent upon us to act in those situations. Just act. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, be sure to contact law enforcement or (call) the child abuse hotline to make sure we can intervene and investigate further.”
In Tennessee, everyone is a mandated reporter. You can report child abuse anonymously. To report suspicions of child abuse, call 1-877-237-0004. To learn more about child abuse prevention and to schedule child abuse prevention training, visit coffeecountycac.org, call 931-723-8888 and follow Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center on social media.