This image shows the X-ray of a two month old baby with multiple rib fractures allegedly due to battering. It was overlaid with shattered glass signifying acute suffering, and the Japanese characters 被虐待児。(The Abused Child) inserted. The perspective transits the eye from the present through suffering to the future.
The saddest and most demanding component of my work was with physically abused children; the task to assess injuries shown on X-rays trying to ascribe a likely cause. The great majority of childhood injuries are accidental, a few inflicted, but proving allegation of abuse beyond reasonable doubt, even when it seems obvious, is difficult. Over the years scientific understanding of inflicted injuries has advanced. The journey from then to now has been tough for those concerned with child protection, unfortunately this area has been a playground for lawyers interested only in protecting parents.
Attending court as an expert witness was particularly hard, knowing;
1, the accused knows what ACTUALLY happened whereas even with specialist training the doctor can only infer retrospectively,
2, there, but for the grace of God, go I and many other parents.
One frequently wonders, when a parent or carer with a full day of work ahead, is woken, sleep deprived, frustrated, exhausted, at 2.00 am, by a crying baby that won’t settle despite best efforts – what induces some to batter their children whilst others do not. Introduce alcohol, poverty or drugs into the mix and the situation takes on complexity beyond understanding. If only we knew…