Reporting child abuse in Virginia

Laura Jewell
Laura Jewell
Ronald Jewell
Ronald Jewell

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's a case that's sparked outrage and distress. The Louisa grandparents accused of torturing their 8-year-old granddaughter.

Laura and Ronald Jewell will be arraigned later this month. We've received calls to our newsroom and comments on from people wanting to know what could have been done to help the little girl.

We talked with the Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Virginia who says most people don't want to get involved in other people's business. But there are steps you can take, anonymously, to get help for an abused child.

Some parents in Blue Ridge Shores say they sensed something was wrong in what is now a high profile child abuse case and now regret not helping. A Louisa County grand jury indicted Ronald Jewell on abuse and cruelty charges. Laura Jewell was charged with child neglect, cruelty and malicious wounding.

Their 8-year-old granddaughter reportedly was bruised, had hair ripped from her head, and a broken foot.

"The fear keeps most people from taking action. That somehow this family is going to find out who told," said Johanna Schuchert with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia.

"One parent who lives in this gated community says she witnessed Laura Jewell verbally abusing the little girl in front of others at the school bus stop and says she now feels guilty about not reporting it.

"If these people saw that pattern over time and noticed the child was having difficulty emotionally, that is certainly grounds for giving a call," said Schuchert.

In Virginia, between July 2008 and June 2009, more than 47,500 children were reported as possible abuse or neglect victims. Of those, more than 5900 met the legal criteria for abuse or neglect and 78% involved children 12-years-old and under. Schuchert says people can report abuse to a school counselor or church pastor.

"Someone in the public doesn't need to be sure that abuse or neglect is happening to make a phone call," said Schuchert.

There is also a toll-free number you can call to report child abuse in Virginia. The number is 800-552-7096.

The Jewells will be arraigned in Louisa Circuit Court on July 28.

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