By Patti Marlowe, Prevention Specialist – Darkness to Light Program Coordinator
I can remember the first time I heard the statistic; “4 children die each day in the U.S., as a result of child abuse”…and, “3 out of those 4 are under age 4”. I thought, who are these people? We never really think anything like this can happen to us, or to anyone we know…right?
In 2013, 25 North Carolina Children died as a result of child abuse, at the hands of either their parents, or caregivers. 128,005 NC children were referred to local Department of Social Service (DSS) agencies for possible abuse or neglect, in the state fiscal year (SFY) 2013-2014. According to the NC census data, 6.2% of our population is children under 5 years old. For most of my life, I have not been known as a “numbers – person” much less pay attention to statistics. Particularly these. If I ever did happen to read or hear about them, I did what many of us are guilty of. I just simply put that into the “othering” category. “That kind of stuff only happens to ‘other’ people, not to me.” For most parents, the thought of anyone we know being capable or hurting their child, much less, injuring them causing death, is unfathomable.
It has been my experience, that when the topic of Child Abuse comes into the room, most people avoid it. They may seem interested to hear stats, or someone’s account or story. And for a moment consider what they can do to get involved. More times, they are able to assure themselves that this could never happen to them or to their kids… and they walk away. It reminds me of that dangerous intersection. You know, the one everybody knows about, (there’s at least one in every town.) If there were only a traffic light, no one would ever have to risk getting hit, assuming everyone obeys the signals. Doesn’t it seem sad that many times, it takes a fatality at that intersection, to get public attention? Maybe because it was someone well known in the community, or a young driver’s life ended too soon, in order to make that signal light finally go up… but only after the tragedy?
There is another form of child abuse that has reached epidemic status in the world we live in. Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a staggering reality that is claiming our children at a rate of 1 in 10. Yes, that is correct; experts estimate that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Ready for more stats? Across the US, 66% of reported sex crimes are committed against children. 35% of that 66% are age 11 and under. Here’s the scariest one; over 90% of child victims and their families, knew, and trusted the abuser. Child Sexual Abuse is the most prevalent health risk to our children, yet it is not a disease. Experts estimate, there are over 39 million survivors of CSA in the US. Where is the traffic signal? How do we stop it?
Prevention education is the answer, and there is power in knowledge. Through knowledge, we are empowered and can become proactive in our preventive measures, instead of reactive to a tragedy that doesn’t have to happen. If I told you it is absolutely free to get training, and would only cost you 2 hours of your time, would you go?
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month (CAPM). I would like to invite every parent, every person who is interested in becoming proactive in this fight to protect our children to our 2nd annual CAPM event in High Point, NC on Saturday, April 18th. It is absolutely free, and it is the first step toward getting involved in the prevention effort. This FREE event begins at 10 am; children from the community will plant a pinwheel garden in memory of Kilah and 25 North Carolina children who died in 2013 at the hands of a parent or caregiver. Blue pinwheels, the symbol for Child Abuse Prevention Month, may be purchased at the event. All proceeds will go toward future child abuse prevention efforts.
Every hour a different speaker will take the stage to share how our community can work together to protect children. The featured speaker is Leslie Davenport, Executive Director of the Kilah Davenport Foundation and the grandmother of Kilah Davenport, who suffered injuries in 2012 and died in March 2014 as the result of child abuse. Davenport worked tirelessly to pass “Kilah’s Law”, a federal law that increases sentences of people convicted of child abuse. Davenport will speak at 1:45 pm.
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Sponsored by the YMCA of High Point