Community Rallies for Child Abuse Awareness

Community members, volunteers, police personnel and the mayor wait to cross Main Street during a one mile walk to spread awareness about child abuse. Photos by Sky Chappell

Community members, police personnel and volunteers gathered in front of the Sweet Home Police Department with a mutual thought in mind, “How can we bring awareness to child abuse?” on April 2.

The event started with Community Service Officer Sean Morgan introducing the event, as well as Mayor Susan Coleman.

After introducing Mayor Coleman, she gave a speech. During this speech, Mayor Coleman touched on many important issues including troubling facts she was not formerly aware of.

“Recently, I learned disturbing facts about child abuse in Linn County,” she said. “In 2022, there were 461 child abuse cases with 48.5% of these cases involved children under the age of 6.”

According to Mayor Coleman, in the same year 19 children died from familial or caregiver abuse or neglect.

“As we know, [I] would anticipate, those Linn County stats include incidents that happened here in Sweet Home,” Mayor Coleman stated.

The importance of bringing awareness to these things was also on the forefront of Mayor Coleman’s mind.

“Let us be a community that chooses to shed light on this matter, to speak out, to become aware of the signs of child abuse, and be willing to report child abuse. Awareness is the first step towards prevention.”

Mayor Coleman ended her speech stating that individuals, families and community members have the power to make a difference.

“We must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and we must take action to create a world where every child is safe, loved and protected,” she said.

Glenda Lonstron, development director for ABC House, speaks to the crowd.

Following Mayor Coleman’s heartfelt speech, Officer Morgan introduced Glenda Lonstron, the development director for ABC House, a nonprofit children’s advocacy center located in Albany.

Lonstron began her speech explaining what ABC House is, and what they do.

“We are dedicated to providing child abuse assesment and support services for children who are referred by our partners for concerns of abuse and neglect, and their families.”

ABC House serves all of Linn and Benton counties. Their multidisciplinary team consists of law enforcement, DHS, child protective services, medical and mental health professionals, and youth serving agencies with one goal: to form a collaborative and efficient response to child abuse allegations.

“This prevents a child from having to retell the worst experience of their life over and over again with people who are not working together,” Lonstron said. “Ninety percent of the children and families that we serve are low income or under-insured. Thanks to generous community support at the ABC House, no child is ever turned away due to the inability to pay.”

Lonstron finished her speech by thanking the community for their support of children.

After the speeches, Officer Morgan guided attendees to gather pinwheels to plant in the garden of the SHPD. This was followed by a one-mile walk through the town, starting at the police department. Attendees walked Highway 20 to 18th Avenue, then walked Long Street to 15th Avenue, subsequently walking back onto Highway 20 and back to the police department. Captain Ryan Cummings was alongside the walk in order to ensure safety as community members marched for a purpose.

“I’d like to see the whole town out here,” Officer Morgan said. “The New Era came out here and helped plant pinwheels in the median. It’s just really about spreading awareness.”