LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- A three year old is dead, and a toddler has a skull fracture, broken ribs, and a lacerated liver.  WDRB has covered several brutal crimes against children in the past week. 

Renee Pierce serves as a children's advocate with the Center for Women and Families and says child abuse and domestic abuse go hand-in-hand -- and both are on the rise:  "Domestic violence cases have increased since the economy has tanked, and I think the pressures in the home have caused triggers."

Pierce says abusers will often use children as a way to hurt their spouse.  That could have been the case as police call what Roderick Williams did to his girlfriend's 15-month-old son "unthinkable."  Williams allegedly slammed the child into a crib -- and that was only part of the attack.

The child remains in critical condition at Kosair after suffering a skull fracture, bleeding on the brain, broken ribs, and a lacerated liver. Authorities say he was shaken for two minutes.

In another case, Tyler Berrios was arrested this week after his girlfriend's son went to the hospital with a black eye.  And on October 9th, 3-year-old Ah-Haod Crawford died from blunt force trauma.  Larry Webster is charged with murder.

Pierce says jealousy can drive the attack.  "There is that need by the abuser to have all the mother's attention and focus, and jealousy of the child is taking that away."

The three children were allegedly hurt at the hands of three different boyfriends.  The one constant: most times, the mother is not even home.

"It really breaks my heart," Pierce says.  "I would really encourage parents to know their partners and their histories, and if anybody has been violent with you then don't leave that person with your child."

Kentucky was part of a recent national study on abusive head trauma in children.

Of the 74 counties surveyed, the data suggests emergency room visits for this type of abuse have spiked 65% since the recession.

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