CINCINNATI — Calls to the national child abuse hotline jumped nearly 14% in the last year. Local experts said they’re handling more cases and the severity of the cases, possibly worsened due to stresses related to the lockdown, has them most concerned.
On Monday, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced he will seek the death penalty in the case of a 4-year-old girl who suffered long-term abuse before her death at the hands of her mother.
"It seems like we have these babies murdered at a frightening level right now," he said. "I don't think folks understand the torture and pain and senselessness of this type of crime and what happened here."
Hours earlier, a local grandmother was arraigned on charges of abusing a corpse, that of her 2-year-old granddaughter, after allegedly placing her body in multiple trash bags.
In February, Deters announced he would seek the death penalty against 21-year-old Desean Brown, who is accused of killing 29-year-old Nyteisha Lattimore in early December 2020 and putting her son, Nylo Lattimore, into the Ohio River soon after.
One month later, in March, Brittany Gosney was charged with murdering her 6-year-old son and abusing her other children. Prosecutors said she also disposed of her son in the Ohio River after his death. Neither of the boys' bodies has been recovered.
Jane Herms runs the Family Nurturing Center, which provides free trauma-focused therapy.
“The level and severity of cases actually increased because they weren’t being brought to the attention of people who could help,” she said.
Usually, the center has fewer than 20 kids in line to see a therapist. Now they have close to 50 children on the waiting list for those services.
"The cases in the news right now are horrific, but they're not the norm,” Herms said. “The real story are the cases that don't ever rise to the level of being on the news or maybe even being reported."
She said it’s important that everyone keep an eye out for vulnerable children and parents – and to look for signs and symptoms. Herms said it’s important to repeatedly reach out to struggling parents and check with your own kids for signs of abuse.
"It's rare for families to want to hurt their children. We see those cases. But most people are doing the best that they can and just not making it,” she said.
According to Herms, cases are often referred by teachers or hospital workers, but anyone wishing to learn more about helping those in need can visit their website.