HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. – There have been two child battery cases in the same week out of Hancock County, both involving children younger than 14 years old. Now, the fathers in each case are facing felony charges.
Indiana law says if you know or suspect a child is being abused physically or sexually you have to say something. Adults spoke up in the case of the two fathers, who now face prison time.
“These are serious offenses. The way the statute is set up if it’s a child that’s injured it does allow for more substantial penalties than it would be if that were not the case,” said Brent Eaton, Hancock County Prosecutor.
James Wood, 38, of New Palestine is accused of kicking his daughter in the head and dragging her across the floor while the child was at his home for an overnight visitation. This was the fourth time this year the department of child services had been contacted about his actions.
“Kids cannot protect themselves and so they are going to other adults and they are relying on those adults to be able to intervene on their behalf to get them to safety,” said Emily Perry, Executive Director of Susie’s Place.
In the next case, a foster child accused 57-year-old Francis Bunten of choking him. Court documents show the boy said Bunten got upset after he wouldn’t take his hands out of his pocket. The child told police Bunten said that was disrespectful. He ran across the street to a neighbor’s house. Perry says adults have to be prepared to respond.
“So we are going into the community and providing different trainings one of which is called stewards of children which is focused more specifically on child sexual abuse but has very broad applications on just how to handle situations responsibly,” Perry said.
Those neighbors did call police. Susie’s Place says their requests for help have surpassed 1,000 children already this year.
“We cannot keep up with the demand for our services but what we do know is when we are educating children and adults on how to report concerns of abuse and neglect we would expect those numbers to go up so that is a good thing sometimes,” Perry said.
Eaton says he wants to make sure parents take advantage of the available resources.
“Even sometimes we present parenting classes in the jail so we can try to make sure people have the information as parents because the best kind of case like this is one we don’t get because people made a better parenting decision that did not result in a case like this,” Eaton said.
To report abuse cases call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect hotline at 1-800-800-5556.