Thursday April 4, 2013

In addition to being the month known for abundant with showers that bring May flowers, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Prevention is the "best hope for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving the lives of children and families," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

Here in Bennington, the Bennington County Child Advocacy Center and Special Investigations Unit will be "planting" a number of blue pinwheels at a highly visible location as a reminder of the significance of this month. As you travel along Northside Drive, you might catch a glimpse of the colorful children’s toys on the lawn of the former US Cellular store starting Friday.

Joy Kitchell, executive director of the BCCAC/SIU, the blue pinwheels are "a good visual reminder of what it’s like to be a kid: Full of fun, carefree."

BCCAC/SIU is a nonprofit community organization that uses a team approach by professionals including law enforcement, health care professionals and social workers to investigate what’s best for child victims of sexual abuse/sexual assault. They also interview adults who have witnessed or may be victims of abuse.

As the blue pinwheels are part of a more widespread recognition of National Child Abuse Month by Prevent Child Abuse America, you may also see them in other communities nationwide this month.

Kicthell added that the pinwheels symbolize that "Children should have a worry-free life."

Sadly, not all children do.

Every year in the United States there are 3.3 million reports of child abuse involving nearly 6 million children.

The U.S. loses an average of five children every day due to abuse-related deaths - the worst record in the industrialized nations - according to Childhelp, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect.

Here are more sobering statistics form that organization:

* A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.

* Approximately 80 percent of children who die from abuse are under the age of 4.

* More than 90 percent of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.

* Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

* About 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.

* About 80 percent of 21-year-olds who were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.

* 14 percent of all men and 36 percent of all women in prison in the U.S. were abused as children.

* Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59 percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28 percent more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30 percent more likely to commit violent crime.

* In 2011 in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, an estimated 676,596 children were victims of child abuse, according to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network and 1,545 children died as a result of abuse or neglect.

Clearly, prevention is the way to go.

To report suspected abuse/neglect of a child in Vermont, call the Child Abuse Hotline at the Department of Children and Families at 800-649-5285.

~Michelle Karas