By RACHEL C. DOVE
WILLIAMSON - A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.
More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse. Approximately 80 percent of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4. It is estimated that between 50 and 60 percent of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on the death certificate.
More than 90 percent of juvenile sex abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. Approximately 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse. Eighty percent of 21-year-olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder. The estimated cost of child abuse and neglect in the U.S. for 2008 was $124 million.
To say these statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are alarming would be a tremendous understatement.
The month of April has been designated as National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. A proclamation was recently signed by members of the Mingo County Commission to show their support for the children who reside within the county and also to acknowledge the efforts of law enforcement, child protective service (CPS) workers and all others who strive to prevent the abuse from occurring, and for serving as protectors for those too young to have a voice.
Thursday afternoon, a crowd of supporters met at the Williamson office of the West Virginia DHHR to join their employees and the students of the Williamson Christian School to walk in a parade through the town in recognition and support of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Each participant was given a blue and silver pinwheel, the new symbol of child abuse and neglect prevention nationwide. Following the conclusion of the parade that ended at the Mingo County Courthouse on Second Avenue, the pinwheels were placed in the lawn of the courthouse, where they will remain until the month of April comes to an end. Nearly 900,000 pinwheels have been displayed across the U.S. since April of 2008.
Amy Martin, Director of the Family Resource Network and Geannie Curry, CPS Supervisor for the Mingo County DHHR, spearheaded the parade, and were pleased with the turn out for the event.
“We want to express our appreciation to everyone who took the time to be a part of the walk with us,” said Curry. “Child abuse is a wide-spread epidemic that has touched far too many lives in our county, our state and our nation.
“We hold this event to bring awareness to this cause, and we can’t emphasize how important it is to step up, report child abuse and take a stand for these children who are being mistreated,” commented Martin.
“All children deserve the right to live in an environment without fear or pain.”
Martin pointed out a statement from James M. Hmurovich, President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America, that is printed on the literature distributed in hopes of encouraging the public to do their part to protect children from becoming the victims of abuse. It reads as follows:
“There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.”
Both Curry and Martin said a special thank you to the students, teachers and administrators of the Williamson Christian School for participating in the parade, and for allowing the luncheon for those who joined their cause to be held inside their facility.
Several county officials participated in the walk for abuse, and praised the efforts of the event organizers that invest their time and effort into assuring the abuse of children is brought to the attention of the public.
“As the county prosecuting attorney, I can do my best to make sure the defendants found guilty of the abuse against a child are punished and held responsible for their crime,” said C. Michael Sparks. “However; without the CPS workers and law enforcement doing a thorough investigation and making the arrests, the conviction wouldn’t be possible.
“I applaud the efforts of these workers for putting the safety and welfare of the children of our county at the top of their list of priorities.
“Nothing affects me more than a case that involves the mistreatment or the death of a child that cannot defend itself against their perpetrator,” said Sparks.
This is the third year the DHHR had held the awareness walk in Williamson, and the second year they have conducted the flag raising ceremony with the child abuse awareness flag in each municipality within the county.
For more information regarding Child Abuse and Awareness Month, contact the Mingo County DHHR at 304-234-4680.