Child Abuse Awareness events planned for April

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home Police Department is asking the community to join in supporting efforts to promote the prevention of child abuse during April, Child Abuse Awareness Month.

“We’re having a pinwheel event here on (Saturday), April 7,” said Community Services Officer Gina Riley. “We’re planting a pinwheel garden here at 11 a.m.”

After the planting and a short program, SHPD will host “Walk a Mile For a Child.”

Moms, kids, business owners, school teachers, grandparents and friends are invited, Riley said. Participants will be escorted by SHPD on a walk to Safeway and back. Participants are encouraged to wear blue and to bring strollers, wagons and bikes in support of safety for all children.

The department is selling blue pinwheels for $1.50 each or 10 for $13. Proceeds go toward purchasing fuel cards for victims of child abuse to reach the services provided by the ABC House in Albany.

ABC House is a nonprofit child abuse intervention center that works with children and their families to overcome the crisis of child abuse and neglect.

“Albany is a long ways away for some people,” Riley said, and the fuel cards have helped quite a few children and families.

“We encourage businesses and homeowners to plant these in their yards and businesses,” Riley said. Last year, Sweet Home had a lot of participation, and people were regularly asking about what they were for.

The pinwheel represents the fun of being a kid, a happy, healthyt child, Riley said. “All children have the right to have a happy, healthy life. Let’s protect them.”

In addition to the pinwheels, the Police Department will have free blue antenna ribbons available along with brochures explaining the signs of child abuse and what to do about it, Riley said. The goal is to encourage people to report signs of abuse.

“When we talk to people, the biggest fear is, ‘What if I’m wrong?'” she said, to which she responds, “What if you’re right? Let’s protect them. Sometimes, it’s the nosy neighbors that get us started. We’ve always taken the philosophy of kids come first.”

According to information provided by the Police Department, one in 10 children will be abused by age 18.

Physical abuse may include hitting or pinching hard enough to leave a mark that doesn’t go away right away. It includes burning with a cigarette, lighter, stove or other instrument; biting hard enough to leave a mark or break skin; and choking, kicking or pushing the victim into walls or objects.

Sexual abuse includes misuse of a child for sexual pleasure or gratification, touching private parts, asking a child to touch adult private parts, oral sex, intercourse and pornography.

Emotional abuse is calling a child mean names; telling a child the child is stupid, worthless or a mistake; making fun of a child when it hurts the child; and telling a child “you wish they were never born.”

Neglect is a failure to provide for basic needs and care depending on the age of a child. Basic needs are food, shelter, clothing, education, medical care and supervision.

Individuals who experience disclosures of abuse should encourage children to talk freely about what happened; not to be judgmental of the abuser nor show a reaction; tell children it is not the children’s fault; assure children that telling someone was the right thing to do; avoid making promises about what will happen; show understanding and listen, without asking a lot of questions; assure children they will be talking to a professional about the abuse and will be safe; and thank children for being honest and brave.