Dentists Must B.E.A.R. Responsibility for Reporting Abuse

March 25, 2003 - Ottawa - The Basic Education for Abuse Recognition (B.E.A.R.) program is the brainchild of Hamilton dentist Dr. Frank Stechey, whose victim identification work at Manhattan's Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks was reported in Communiqué and many other publications.

B.E.A.R. was initiated in Hamilton in 2003, to expand beyond the U.S.-based P.A.N.D.A. (Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness) program's focus on child abuse.

"All abuse is on the rise, not just child abuse," Dr. Stechey states. "There is abuse of seniors, domestic and family violence, spousal and partner abuse - other areas where the same educational tools developed by the P.A.N.D.A. coalition can be used. The B.E.A.R. program will help dentists and other health care providers recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse for all victims. It will also show them when and how to go about notifying the authorities."

Dr. Stechey bemoans the fact that dental staff often don't ask the question - "what happened?" "If suspicions warrant, it is very important for the dentist and staff to ask the question - 'have you been abused?,'" he explains. "Then you basically shut up and listen. Studies show that about 84% of victims want to tell someone about their abuse, but don't know how. This gives them the opportunity to speak out.

"Staff must of course be prepared to handle the answer. The onus is on the dentist to act upon the information received, but there is no training for that. Dentists and their staff need a full-service program to be able to recognize and report cases of abuse, and to know how to refer the victims to appropriate agencies. The B.E.A.R. program addresses those needs."

"All we are asking the dental profession to do is recognize that something is wrong and report it," Dr. Stechey emphasizes. "Then let the professionals who deal with investigating abuse do their job. The dentist will not be held accountable, because he or she did the right thing."

Dr. Stechey is working to expand B.E.A.R. nationwide. He is seeking government support, giving presentations across Ontario and distributing pamphlets. He hopes dental associations in other provinces will launch regional variants of the B.E.A.R. program.


Those who want to find out more about B.E.A.R. should contact:

Dr. Frank M. Stechey
York & Bay Dental Offices
151 York Boulevard, Suite 203
Hamilton, ON L8R 3M2
Tel.: (905) 577-0770
Fax: (905) 577-0721

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