Differentiating Accidental Trauma vs. Child Abuse

The NIJ, through the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, has made available a new final technical report, "Development of a Surrogate Bruising Detection System to Describe Bruising Patterns Associated with Common Childhood Falls".


Gina Bertocci, Ph.D., P.E., University of Louisville; Raymond Dsouza, M.S., University of Louisville

Excerpt from the Authors' Abstract:

Roughly 1500 children are fatally abused each year. Many serious injuries and fatalities could have been prevented if clinicians and child protective services were able to better distinguish between injuries associated with abuse and those caused by accidents.

Our goal was to design and develop a prototype surrogate bruising detection device having the capability to predict potential bruising patterns in children when adapted to a test dummy used to simulate common household fall events often stated as false scenarios in child abuse. The scope of our project included the development of a “sensing skin” that can be adapted to a commercial test dummy representing a 12 month old child, along with a data acquisition system and software capable of displaying sensor output and location on a 3D representation of a human surrogate. When used in future mock laboratory experiments, the sensing skin-adapted test dummy will have the capability of measuring and recording levels of impact force, documenting the locations of impact on the test dummy, and representing the number of impact points encountered.

The primary outcome of our project is a prototype surrogate bruising detection device that includes: 1) custom-designed, low-cost force sensors that are integrated into matrices incorporated into a “skin” that adapts to a commercial 12 month old test dummy, 2) a data acquisition system that can capture and record force sensor output and location during a simulated fall or other event, 3) a computerized body mapping system that displays color-coded sensor output indicating the level of applied force to specific body regions, along with the location of force application. Our prototype surrogate bruising detection system will be capable of predicting potential bruising numbers, patterns and location when adapted to a child test dummy used in simulations of falls or other events.

Click here to download the Executive Summary (5 pages)

Click here to download the Final Report (66 pages)

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Court Case Update

FINGERPRINT EVIDENCE went through a nearly three-year ordeal in the New Hampshire court system, but eventually emerged unscathed. On April 4, 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision of a lower court to exclude expert testimony regarding fingerprint evidence in the case of The State of New Hampshire v. Richard Langill. The case has been remanded back to the Rockingham County Superior Court.