by Sunny Layne
CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -- October is Child Abuse Awareness Month.
The term "shaken baby syndrome" conjures a very violent image, but family educators are using a powerful tool to show how little it takes to permanently injure or even kill a baby.
University of Northern Iowa family services instructor Julie Pitzen begins one of her most important classes of the semester.
Pitzen brings a state-of-the-art shaken baby simulator purchased with grant money for the Family and Children's Council of Black Hawk County.
It educates students and parents on what happens when you shake a baby.
Lit up, the simulator shows how shaking damages different areas of the brain.
Pitzen says, "Most cases of shaken baby cause a fatality under 20 seconds and many under 10. It doesn't take long at all."
Even though it's disturbing to watch, she demonstrates for the class.
Student Stephanie Babcock says, "It was really shocking to see how easy it was you could shake a baby to the point you could cause it to die. Obviously a 2-month-old can't tell you 'that's hurting me, don't do that to me.'"
It is okay to let a baby cry. This is the message Pitzen wants her students to spread, the "2-2-2 rule": Crying begins to escalate at 2 weeks, peaks at two months, and babies can cry for 2 to 3 hours a day.
Crying is often part of a developmental stage.
Pitzen says, "If people understand the developmental information 'oh it's okay to let the baby cry,' - then they don't have to reach that level of frustration and take it out on the baby."
She hopes to educate men the most, because in shaken baby cases, 20% occur at the hands of the mother's boyfriend and 40% by the biological father.
Most of these men have no violent background. Pitzen says men just don't get the same education as women.
Twenty-five percent of shaken baby cases end in death.
Seventy-five percent end in permanent damage, like blindness, mental retardation, cerebral palsy and more.
One hundred percent of shaken babies deal with life-altering effects.
It is never okay to shake a baby.
To learn more about the shaken baby simulator and child abuse prevention, click here.
Online Anchor: Sunny Layne