The majority of people who call Cook County's child abuse tip line are adults - friends, neighbors, teachers, pastors, counselors. But sometimes those calls are made by someone a lot closer to the abuse - the victims themselves.
In this month's investigation of child sexual abuse in Cook County, we noticed a strange trend among calls made by victims of abuse: almost none of them were deemed valid. Out of 84 calls made between 2005 and 2009, only one showed evidence of child sexual abuse.
That really made us scratch our heads. What exactly is going on there?
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We asked investigators at the Department of Children and Family Services what was going on. They said it could be that state wards - children already in the foster care system - are the ones calling.
"We do have a lot of kids in our system, and a lot of kids do make an
outcry. Sometimes because something happened, sometimes because they
just need help," said Roi Montalvo, DCFS regional administrator.
That seemed like a probable answer. But our data didn't show whether kids who called were wards of the state. So we decided to look at all of Illinois. Were all the victim calls in Illinois unfounded too?
Nope. Across Illinois, about 198 victims made calls over the same period. In 10 percent of those cases, the accusations were deemed valid. Why were 19 cases out of that 198 deemed valid across Illinois, when only one out of the 84 calls made here in Cook County was?
We're wondering what's up with victim calls in Cook County. Is it true that they're just making unfounded cries for help? Or are they making a real attempt to stop their own abuse and just being ignored?
Photo credit: Shane Adams