This document contains critical comments by Eeva Sodhi, pointing out
flaws in the method of presentation and in the statistics contained in:
Statistics Canada pub. Family Violence in Canada: A
Statistical Profile 2000
85-224The comments by Eeva Sodhi contain as well excerpts from comparable
studies and sources that differ widely in quality from the deplorable quality of the
information produced by Statistics Canada in their report.
This page contains
the first part of comments provided by Eeva Sodhi in three parts.
Parts of Critique
- Child Abuse and Murder
- Spousal Violence
- Spousal Homicide and Research
Family Violence in Canada 2000 An Alternative Approach, Part 1
Child Abuse and HomicideDr. Ivan P. Fellegi, the Chief Statistician of Canada, has made a valiant
effort to introduce a proper gender perspective to the annual Family Violence in
Canada (FVC). This new edition is a giant step forward.
Though the statistics now reflect a better picture of the dynamics behind
direct violence, the writers are still expressing their personal speculative opinions,
which they present as a factual documentation of valid data. The list of references by the
authors is exclusively drawn from feminist databases.It is a matter of concern that errors in the 1999 edition of the
Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile have not been corrected in
this years edition. Such statements as: The number of accused fathers
increased ... to 37 in 1997 were clearly false. Considering that a correction was
not issued, though the correct data were available, there is a possibility that the
information even in this years edition may be intentionally misleading.
Similar unqualified statements are found in the 1998 edition as
well: [In 1996] The percentage of fathers responsible for killing children was
almost three times that of mothers
(p. 30). No data to corroborate that
claim are given. The consistent vilification of fathers, which is not backed up by any of
the leading research, is troubling. The actual number for 1997 statistics about known perpetrators of child
homicide given to me privately was 21 natural fathers, 3 step-fathers, the number of
mothers is somewhat clouded: it may be 23, 24 or 25 (including one step-mother), depending
which of the several variations one believes. I wish to emphasize the word
known as, according to Marlene Dalley, RCMP, a substantial number of the
perpetrators was not known. Also, neonatacidal
deaths, as well as many other infant deaths are either not known or are misdiagnosed. The
need for Baby Banks, where mothers can dispose of their newborn infants
anonymously, would prove the extent of the problem. Whatever the limitations of the data
worldwide, they would seem to prove that both fathers and mothers were equally responsible
for the known homicides, mothers somewhat more than fathers. It is curious that only
Statistics Canada comes to a different conclusion.
Child Abuse and Murder.The most notable, and damaging, misrepresentations in this document are
again found in Violence Against Children and Youth (Section 4)
The writer, quite correctly, begins by stating that currently there is no
single source for national data on the nature and extent of child maltreatment in Canada.
She then uses seven pages to elaborate on a data that she claims to be non-existent.
The Bureau of Reproductive & Child Health, Child Maltreatment
Division, Health Canada, reports that the Child Maltreatment Division is working
towards providing the results of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and
Neglect (CIS), as soon as possible. Though the release dates were given as late spring or
early summer, there are no published results available as yet.
In the meantime, the results of the Ontario Incidence Study of
Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (OIS), by Dr. Nico Trocmé, have been available
since 1994. It gives us a statistical picture which, just like other available data, is
very different from the one that the writer presents. Ois a precursor to the CIS, which
has also been directed by Dr. Trocmé. It is not feasible to discuss each and every misrepresentation of facts,
however, the following few examples should illustrate the lingering problems that need to
The sex of the victim is specified, the sex of the accused is not. This
holds true to other data in chapter 4 as well, with a few notable exceptions, such as the
small paragraph on page 33, quoted below. The word accused or
alleged is missing. Curiously, table 4.3 on the same page uses the gender
neutral term parent.
FVC, p. 32, Table 4.2: Child and youth victims of assault reported to police by
accused-victim relationship, 1999.
She continues: Regardless of the type of abuse or the
childrens age, children and youth were most often assaulted by their fathers.
In incidents involving parents in 1999, children were the victims of their fathers in
nearly all (98%) sexual assault incidents, and a large majority (71%) of physical assault
incidents. As these are about incidents reported to the police, it is not
appropriate to use the definitive term were.
On p. 33 the writer reports: Fathers more likely accused of
assaulting their children.
Though I do not have any data for 1999, those percentages seem unrealistic
in relation to available data covering previous decades.
It is quite clear that fathers are the ones who are most likely to be
accused, though the substantiation rate
reveals that mothers and their new partners/husbands, rather than natural
the main perpetrators. Research in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. point to the likelihood
that the number of mothers is likely underestimated in cases of sexual, and other, abuse.
The confusion continues with the parent-offspring homicide analysis. When
I questioned the validity of the data in the previous edition, Mr. Orest Fedorowycz
provided me with a clear table which contained all the pertinent information. Why has the
same precise method not been used in the current edition of the publication as well? My
endnote 6.f illustrates a good example of factual
presentation of data. Time spans in FVC 2000 for comparison include 1979-1998, 1991-1997,
1994-1998, and 1998 alone. There is a random use of various age groups in the tables.
Though the publication is quite diligent in providing a gender breakdown of
perpetrators (who are treated as proven perpetrators) relating to other subject matters,
the data on substantiated cases of child abuse and murder are gender neutral, thus
obscuring the gender culpability. Notably absent are the corrected data for 1997.
Text above the figure: 70% of the children killed by their
mothers were age 3 or younger
However, figure 5.7 to which this
statement refers, would seem to indicate that from 1979 to 1998, 70% of
victims who were age 3 or younger were killed by their mothers. Which one is
correct, the text or the figure?
On p. 43, figure 5.7: More younger children killed by parents, Canada,
Text under the figure covers years 1994-1998.
The first question that arises is: Why do the statistics relate to
time spans and age groups? The Homicide Survey presents one set of data,
which also may vary from year to year, and within the same edition. The Canadian Injury
Data presents its own standard, and the Family Violence in Canada survey has no
definable standard. Yet all these three are used as points of comparison in the annual
Family Violence in Canada publication.
On p. 44, in table 5.6: Homicides of children less than age one by accused-victim
Figure 5.9 on the same page: Decrease in number of infant deaths with unknown
Second, why is the data on fathers and mothers as well as on
perpetrators omitted? The authors present statistics which show that most children are
killed by fathers, and that, if certain time periods and age groups are combined, fathers
are found to be the main perpetrators. This does not hold true within the overall picture,
as is presented by various child welfare authorities and official homicide statistics. In
addition, the data on neonatacidal deaths and homicides that are misdiagnosed are not
available. See the Munchausen Syndrome as an example of cause for deaths that are often
misdiagnosed. Third, though the methods used in known spousal homicides
are given, why is no such information available in regard to child homicides? Yet, one
would expect that this would be of utmost importance given the vulnerability of the
victims, who may have been abused for long periods in a most gruesome manner. Mr.
Fedorowycz was kind enough to supply me with that information for 1997, though it has not
been made available to the general public.
M. Smithey gives the following victim age breakdown in a report by the
National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect (U.S.), CD-26658: Infant
Homicide: Victim-Offender relationship: Mothers were the most frequent offenders
of the murder of newborns and infants up to 4 months; the biological father
[that is: natural father] is the leading
offender at ages 4 to 10 months; the mother's boyfriend and victim's stepfather were the
most frequent offenders from 10 to 25 months; and mothers were the primary offenders for
ages 25 months and older. Based on this, it is easy to manipulate the public perception of
gender culpability by giving statistics on one age group, maybe combined with a selected
time-span. As has been the case in the previous editions, obscure percentages,
percentages of those percentages without real numbers, and rates per 100,000 of population
without a reference to the total overall population segment, were used. If
the crime is relatively infrequent, very little is required in absolute numbers to produce
a large difference in percentages.
Considering that the shortage of space has been given to me as an excuse
for not being able to present factual information, this verbosity is baffling. A concise
table, such as is used by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Division of Social Services. Central Registry Reports of Child Abuse, Neglect,
& Dependency (1997/98) Selected Statistical Data. FY 97/98 (note
6.f) would take a fraction of the space that is presently used,
and would present an accurate picture, without the accompanying and confusing personal
opinions. There is a real need to formulate a standard methodology which will be used from
issue to issue and subject to subject without any room for manipulation.
- Marlene Dalley, Royal Canadian Mounted Police: The Killing of Canadian Children by
Parent(s) or by Guardian(s): Characteristics and Trends 1990-1993
p. 13, table 1A: in 1994 there were no accused in 10 incidents; 1995, in 8 incidents;
1996, in 5 incidents; 1997, in 26 incidents; a total of 49 incidents had no accused in the
period from 1994-1997.
- The Bureau of Reproductive & Child Health, Child Maltreatment Division, Health
Canada, reports that the Child Maltreatment Division is working towards providing the
results of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS),
as soon as possible:
The data collection and preliminary analysis phase will be completed by the 31st of
The results of the data collection and analysis will be captured in a series of
documents which are to be prepared during the spring of 2000.
The reporting phase is planned for late spring or early summer when the results of the
preliminary analysis will be released.
- The Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, published
Boys were most strongly over-represented in the area of physical
abuse, especially in the 0- to 3-year-old category where boys accounted for 59 percent of
investigations. Male children aged 4 to 11 years accounted for 55.5 per cent.
Relationship to alleged perpetrator:
All maltreatment, investigated cases: mother: 48%, father 32%, stepfather 11; substantiated cases: mother 49%; father 31%, stepfather: 13%
investigated cases: mother 44%; father 41%; stepfather 13%; substantiated cases:
mother 39%; father 40%; stepfather 17%
"Most cases of substantiated physical abuse (mother 39%; father 40%; stepfather
17%) were single incidents (57 percent); ... 39 percent of substantiated neglect cases
(mother 85%, father 26%, stepfather 8%) ... cases of substantiated emotional maltreatment
(mother 79%, father 55%, stepfather 20%) were almost exclusively limited to long-term
Chapter 4: Characteristics of maltreatment, p. 70: Punishment/Discipline:
"Punishment or discipline related issues were involved in ... 85% of
substantiated physical abuse cases. Thirty-one percent of emotional
maltreatment cases also had problems relating to discipline or punishment".
Sexual abuse: investigated cases: parent 4,953 (43.8%); biological mother 312 (2.8%);
natural father 2,737 (24.2%); stepfather 1321 (11.7%); stepmother 70 (0.6). Altogether
accused males comprised 90% of total investigations.
Substantiated cases: parent: 24%; natural father: 19%; biological mother 14%;
Stepfather 35%; stepmother 0%; total substantiation rate: 28%.
Percentages do not add up as there can be
more than one perpetrator per case and for the sake of brevity I have included only
parents and stepparents, though the complete tables include all perpetrators of child
abuse. Considering the relatively small number of sexual assaults by either parent, the
figures in percentages can be unreasonably alarming. It would have been more realistic to
give the breakdown in actual numbers, especially considering the fact that this the
only category in which non-parents are the main perpetrators of abuse.
- See the OIS report above
- Executive Summary of the Third National
Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. (September 1996.
Boys were at somewhat greater risk of serious injury (24% higher than
girls' risk under both definitional standards), and boys were significantly more likely to
be emotionally neglected (boys' risk was 18% greater than girls'). ...Children were
somewhat more likely to be maltreated by female perpetrators than by males: 65 percent of
the maltreated children had been maltreated by a female, whereas 54 percent had been
maltreated by a male. Of children who were maltreated by their birth parents, the majority
(75%) were maltreated by their mothers and a sizeable minority (46%) were maltreated by
their fathers (some children were maltreated by both parents). Children who had been
physically abused by their birth parents were more likely to have suffered
at the hands of their mothers than their fathers (60% versus 48%), while those who had
been physically abused by other parents or parent- substitutes were much
more likely to have been abused by their fathers or father-substitutes (90% by their
substitute fathers versus 19% by their substitute mothers).
This finding correlates other similar findings which show that natural
less likely than father substitutes or other males to be the perpetrators of any kind of
- Child Abuse and Neglect National Statistics (U.S.) This fact sheet presents
highlights from the Federal publication Child Maltreatment 1998. The highlights are based
on responses from the States to the 1998 National Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting System
(NCANDS). Data were collected in aggregate through the Summary Data Component Survey or at
the case level through the Detailed Case Data Component of NCANDS.
Instances of possible child maltreatment are referred to local child protective
services (CPS) agencies.[*] The agencies "screen out" or "screen in"
referrals for investigation or assessment. Agencies also decide whether to take further
actions on behalf of protecting a child.
Of the estimated 2,806,000 referrals received, approximately one-third (34%) were
screened out and two-thirds (66%) were transferred for investigation or assessment.
Slightly fewer than one-third of investigations (29.2%) resulted in a disposition of
either substantiated or indicated child maltreatment. More than half (57.2%) resulted in a
finding that child maltreatment was not substantiated. More than a tenth (13.6%) received
There were an estimated 903,000 victims of maltreatment nationwide. The 1998 rate of
victimization was 12.9 per 1,000 children, a decrease from the 1997 rate of 13.9 per
More than half of all victims (53.5%) suffered neglect, while almost a quarter (22.7%)
suffered physical abuse. Nearly 12 percent of the victims (11.5%) were sexually abused.
Victims of psychological abuse and medical neglect accounted for 6 percent or fewer each.
In addition, a quarter of victims (25.3%) were reported to be victims of more than one
type of maltreatment.
The highest victimization rates were for the 0-3 age group (14.8 maltreatments per
1,000 children of this age in the population), and rates declined as age increased.
A perpetrator of child abuse and/or neglect is a person who has maltreated a child
while in a caretaking relationship to the child.
Three-fifths (60.4%) of perpetrators were female. Female perpetrators were typically
younger than their male counterparts, as reflected by the difference in their respective
median ages, 31 and 34.
More than four-fifths (87.1%) of all victims were maltreated by one or both parents.
The most common pattern of maltreatment was a child neglected by a female parent with no
other perpetrators identified (44.7%).
Victims of physical and sexual abuse, compared to victims of neglect and medical
neglect, were more likely to be maltreated by a male parent* acting alone. In cases of
sexual abuse, more than half of victims (55.9%) were abused by male parents*, male
relatives, or other males.
* includes both biological and step and/or adoptive parents, and may include
mothers boyfriend(s) or partner(s).
- A study by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children revealed a
few years ago that natural mothers, not fathers, are most frequently the perpetrators of
physical injury, emotional abuse and neglect.
* Ed. Note: See also
An epidemic of state-sponsored kidnapping feeds a tyrannical system hungry for
revenues. Child Protective Services and Children's Aid Societies systematically and
increasingly often rob children from their parents. Kafkaesque chicaneries that the
targeted families find impossible to comply with are the tools used to keep the revenues
rolling in. Many families don't survive the ordeals that they are being subjected to
by any given CPS or CAS.
According to Madame Justice Mary-Lou Benotto, false allegations
during divorce and custody proceedings have become the weapon of choice:
Family law litigation has now embraced and enhanced these innovations which
develop their own character borne of the uniqueness of the domestic relationship. In my
opinion, the worst results are found in four areas:
1. abuse allegations
2. the ugly affidavit
3. the winner-loser syndrome in custody cases
4. the use of delay for strategic advantage
The nature of a family law case is that the interim motion is often the most important
single event in the proceeding. In the last five years, the number of motions in family
law has increased by 150 percent. (Ministry of the Attorney General) Evidence is presented
by affidavit. Human nature is such that it is far easier to lie on paper than in the
witness box. As stated in the Ontario Civil Justice Review, First Report, (p. 272) the
single greatest complaint about lawyers by members of the public was with respect to the
damage to family relationships caused by the allegations in these affidavits -
it is widely acknowledged, perjury is rampant and, moreover, goes unpunished.[Ethics
in Family Law: Is Family Law Advocacy a Contradiction in Terms? Presented to the
Advocates' Society Conference in Nassau, Bahamas 2 December 1995 by Mary Lou
- Alberta Family and Social Service Office for the Prevention of Family Violence
summary provincial total - shelter & satellite 01/01/1997 to 31/12/1997
date: 13/03/1998). Abused by mother: 300 (4.8%), by father 226 (3.7%).
- BBC Panorama (10 pm Monday 6th, October 1997) Child Sexual Abuse by
Women. Researchers are now asking about child sexual abuse by women, now
estimated at 250,000 children, or 35% or more of all reported child sexual
abuse. This compares with the more openly admitted and traditional
non-sexual abuse/neglect of children by women where the incidence rate is
- Daly, M. and Wilson, M. (1987) Risk of Maltreatment of Children Living With
Stepparents, in Richard J. Gelles and Jane B. Lancaster, Child Abuse and Neglect:
Biosocial Dimensions (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1987), pp. 215-232. Preschoolers in
Hamilton, Ontario, living with one biological and one stepparent in 1983 were 40 times
more likely to be victims of child abuse as like-aged children living with two biological
parents. Children two years and younger are seventy to a hundred times more likely to be
killed at the hands of stepparents than at the hands of biological parents.
- Health and Welfare Canada (1986) In a study by Bell: The perpetrator of
child abuse was the mother in 38.7%, the father in 18.4% of cases.
- Health Canada, National Clearinghouse on Family Violence (March 1996) The
Invisible Boy: There is a 59% to 80% rate of sexual abuse by females in
the backgrounds of rapists, sex offenders, and sexually aggressive men.
- North Carolina Department of Health and Human
Services. Division of Social Services. Central Registry Reports of Child Abuse, Neglect, & Dependency
(1997/98) Selected Statistical Data. FY 97/98: 61,298 reports consisting of 114,152
-- Unsubstantiated reports: 41,988 (68.50%), consisting of 79,393 (69.55%)
--Substantiated reports: 19,310 (31.50%) reports of 34,759 (30.45%) children.
--Number of children reported: 96,697 (84.71%) neglect; 10,039 (8.79%) abuse; 6,479
(5.68%) neglect & abuse; 937 (0.82%) dependency.
-- Substantiated maltreatment: 1,414
(4.07%) physical abuse.
--1,453 (4.18%) sexual abuse; 132 (0.21%) emotional abuse; 74
(0.21%) moral turbitude.
--Total abuse substantiated: 3,073 (8.84%); Total neglect
substantiated: 31,164 (89.66%).
-- Perpetrators: 29,282 (84.19%) biological parent: 7,050
(24%) male; 22,232 (76%) female; 217 (0.62%) adoptive parent:109 (50.23%) male; 108
-- 1,628 step-parent: 1,424 (87.47%) male; 204 (12.53%) female.
(0.40%) foster parent: 43 (30.94%) male; 96 (69%) female.
-- 894 (2.57%) grandparent: 228
(25.50%) male; 666 (74.50%) female.
--112 (0.32%) step-grandparent: 97 (86.60%) male; 15
-- 771 (2.22%) other relative: 366 (47.47%) male; 405 (52.53%) female.
--1,173 (3.37%) other caretaker: 942 (80.30%) male; 231 (19.70%) female.
(0.38%): 90 (67.67%) male employee; 43 (32.33%) female employee.
432 (1.24%): 35 (8.10%) male employee ; 397 (91.90%) female employee. Total: 34,781
perpetrators: 10,384 (29.86%) male; 24,397 (70.14%) female [note: Victim may have more
than one perpetrator and perpetrator may have been listed for more than one victim]
- The Statistical Abstract of the United States (1987) Of reported child
maltreatment cases between 1980 and 1984 between 57.0% and 61.4% were perpetrated by the
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Childrens Bureau (1997)
of Findings. Based on data from 44 States, there were approximately 3 million reports
about maltreatment of children, about two million were investigated and it was estimated
that there were approximately 984,000 victims of maltreatment nationwide, a decrease from
more than 1 million victims in 1996. The rate of victimization was 13.9 per 1,000
children. More than half of all victims suffered neglect, while almost a quarter suffered
physical abuse. Twelve percent of the victims were sexually abused. Victims of
psychological abuse, medical neglect, and other types of maltreatment
accounted for less than 11 percent each. Infants were the largest single-year age group of
maltreatment victims, at 7 percent. Forty-one States reported 967 child maltreatment
fatalities, which were extrapolated to a national estimate of 1,197. Children younger than
age 4 accounted for more than three-quarters of all fatalities. Two percent of all
fatalities occurred while the victim was in foster care. [This figure may be conservative
due to the potential for misdiagnosis of death as either a result of sudden infant death
syndrome, homicide, or accidents. Many states have difficulty in acquiring enough
information from the coroner's office and the judicial system about the particular
circumstances surrounding a child's death to determine if abuse or neglect could have been
a factor] Three-quarters of perpetrators of child maltreatment were parents, and an
additional tenth were other relatives. DCDC data reveal that 184,152 perpetrators (62.3
percent) were female, and 111,473 (37.7 percent) were male DCDC data
show that male perpetrators were associated with 74.1 percent (15,606) of
sexual abuse victims. Female perpetrators were associated with 82.0 percent
(4,716) of medical neglect victims and 73.9 percent (83,769) of neglect
victims. Males and females were each associated with approximately half of
physical abuse and psychological abuse victims. Not all child maltreatment
fatalities are reported to CPS agencies.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1996) Child Maltreatment. Reports
from the States to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (Washington, D.C.:
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998). Seventy-seven percent of perpetrators of child
maltreatment were parents, and an additional 11 percent were other relatives of the
victim. It is estimated that over 80 percent of all perpetrators were under age 40
and that almost two-thirds were females.
- Sexual Offenses Against Children (1984), also known as the "Badgley
For the category of sexual assault, about 3 in 4 victims in the study were female, 1 in
4 was a boy. The study also found that the proportion of sexually assaulted males
increased with age, while the reporting dropped, dramatically so after puberty. In the
National Population Health Survey, 90% of males and 75% of females did not report their
abuse experience. Overall, female victims were twice as likely to report their sexual
The study also reported findings about female perpetrators that have received
absolutely no public or professional attention, specifically, "exposure" to
males and use of juveniles working in prostitution. Both of these findings are ignored in
discussions about prevalence rates pertaining to males. In the sub-study of National
Police Force Survey findings (Badgley, 1984), the report reveals that males account for
99.4% of charges laid for exposure, women .06%. However, in the National Population Health
Survey (Badgley, 1984), 77.6% of victims of both sexes reported being exposed to by males,
while 22.4% of victims reported being exposed to by females. In these incidents, 33% of
males reported unwanted exposure of a females genitalia. One in thirteen exposures
to females were by females, 1 in 20 involved exposure of a females genitalia.
However, it is likely that these findings fail to consider the fact that it is the
seriousness of the abuse that brought the incident involving a male victim to the
attention of official agencies in the first place. Male victims tend not to report less
severe types of sexual abuse, especially those involving female perpetrators. Inspite of
the reported levels of female exposure in the National Population Health Survey, only a
small fraction of female exposers end up being reported or charged.
- A somewhat different picture is presented in a research paper by Marlene Dalley,
Royal Canadian Mounted Police and titled: The Killing of Canadian Children by Parent(s)
or by Guardian(s): Characteristics and Trends 1990-1993. It may be worth to note
that these numbers refer to those cases where the perpetrator was known.
P. 16, Table 5: Total number of children killed by fathers: 35, by stepfathers 4, by
mothers 42, by stepmothers 2.
Text: Offenders relationship to the child: In 48% of the 99 deaths, the offender
was either the mother or the step mother and in 39% the offender was either father or step
father. The mother and father planned the killing together in 1% of the incidents.
of the 88 homicide incidents 11 incidents involved a parent or guardian
killing more than one child. In 9 out of the 11 multiple killings the offender committed
suicide or attempted to commit suicide after the killing.
A total of 22 child
deaths occurred in a multiple killing situation. 6 fathers or guardians killed 12
children, 5 mothers or guardians killed 10 children.
- U.S. Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics. A parent
is the perpetrator in most homicides of children under age 5
- 27% were killed by mothers
- 27% were killed by fathers
- 24% were killed by acquaintances
- 6% were killed by other relatives
- 3% were killed by strangers
- 12% were killed by perpetrators whose relationship was unknown
- Artingstall, Kathryn A., "Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy," FBI Law
Enforcement Bulletin, August 1995: Detective Artingstall serves with the Orlando, Florida,
Highly disputed child custody cases often generate charges of child abuse. Sometimes,
MSP offenders accuse the other parent of abuse in order to mask their own wrongdoing and
to keep custody of the child. In cases where an estranged parent involved in
a custody dispute reports illnesses or accuses the other parent of child abuse,
investigators should explore all potential motivations for such accusations. Falsified
reports for custodial purposes could be a valid concern.
Suspected MSP offenders who believe that they are being watched, have been accused of
MSP abuse, or sense the need for self-vindication might seek assistance by accessing
public shelters provided for victims of domestic violence. In such cases,
rely on their highly developed skills of deception.
Because personnel working at these shelters function for the protection and assistance
of traumatized women, they might be reluctant to question an incoming client's account of
victimization. This situation highlights the need for a concrete investigative protocol
when suspicion falls on an MSP offender.
Once a woman gravitates to an abuse shelter, police access might be difficult, and
support system in the shelter will reinforce her fictitious explanation of the
child's injuries or illness.
In cases where a child has either died from abuse or matured to the point that the
caregiver believes it is too dangerous to continue the abuse, the offender might attempt
to find another suitable victim. The offender commonly substitutes a younger sibling
for the initial victim. In rare cases, both children might share the abuse simultaneously,
but it is more likely that the offender will concentrate on one victim at a time.
Because offenders revel emotionally in the attention derived from MSP, it seems reasonable
to assume that only one child would be necessary to gain such attention. However,
investigators would be remiss to assume singular victimization because MSP offenders
maintain their own peculiar index of rationalization.
Unfortunately, MSP has become a popular means to "dump" cases when agencies
seek to establish a link between this syndrome and maternal homicide.
Investigators should consider the possibility of MSP if they believe there to be some
secondary gain, in the form of attention or notoriety, afforded the offender at the
expense of the victim. If investigators find no warning signs associated with MSP cases or
no secondary gain in the form of attention, then they should consider the possibility of
homicide without the association of the MSP factor.
Confusion with SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
With further investigation, identified MSP offenders might be linked to the deaths of
their other children. Often, the original medical examiners incorrectly identified these
deaths as resulting from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Whether the child actually knows that the offender has induced the illness depends on
the child's physical age and the offender's covert skills.
Careful planning and caution in this area can be critical; research indicates that
9 to 31 percent of all MSP victims die at the hands of their perpetrators.
A growing list of cases involving Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy confirms
that this disorder represents a substantial challenge to the criminal justice system
- North Staffordshire Hospital is examining claims surrounding the
diagnosis of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental condition which leads parents, mostly mothers, to
induce or fabricate illness in their own children.
Dr. Southalls report
says: "Video-taped evidence of sadistic abuse of children ranging in age
from two months to 44 months resulted in child care proceedings leading to
care orders in 38 of the 39 cases. As a result 33 of the 39 parents were
also the subject of criminal prosecutions." Deliberate suffocation was
recorded in 30 cases. A total of 12 brothers and sisters of the 39
children had died. All but one of these deaths was attributed to cot
death. After a hospital investigation, four parents admitted suffocating
eight of the children. "Covert surveillance has revealed that many such
parents appear caring and kind in the presence of professionals, yet
within seconds of being alone with the child become cruel and sadistic."
- A report published in the American Academy of Pediatrics discusses the
use of hidden cameras and listening devices in hospital rooms at
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite (formerly Scottish Rite
Children's Medical Center, Atlanta, GA), Between 1993 and 1997 a total of
41 patients were monitored. MSP was stated to be present in 23 of
the cases. Fifty-five percent of the mothers accused had previous experience in healthcare
and another twenty-five percent had worked in daycare.
The cameras, installed over four years, helped diagnose 23 mothers with Munchausen
syndrome by proxy a mental illness that causes parents hungry for attention or
sympathy to abuse their children.
Doctors say the mental illness leads to children's deaths in about 10 percent of cases.
But they say diagnosing the disorder is difficult, and the number could be higher.