You may have seen blue and silver pinwheels in the yards of homes and businesses around town (last) month and wondered why. Since 1983, April has been designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Pinwheels are a symbol introduced by Prevent Child Abuse America as a reminder of the happy childhoods and bright futures that all children deserve.
But beyond the symbolic pinwheel raising awareness, did you know that West Virginia Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) helped over 4,500 children in our state last year who experienced abuse? That’s a 58% increase in the number of children served in the last five years. And most of those served by WV CACs were there because of allegations of sexual abuse.
Locally, Just For Kids Child Advocacy Center saw more than 400 children. The shocking reality is that 1 in every 10 children will likely be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18. Child abuse is happening every day right here in our community.
When a child enters our Child Advocacy Center, they may have just experienced the unimaginable. But they have the opportunity to talk to an interviewer who is trained to ask age-appropriate, non-leading questions in a way that reduces the trauma of telling their difficult story. The interview is recorded so the child doesn’t have to repeat it. Then, based on the interview, a team that includes professionals makes decisions together about how to best help the child and their family.
Prior to the Child Advocacy Center movement, children were moved from agency to agency and endured multiple interviews, which can create additional trauma. A CAC turns that model upside down by providing one safe, child-friendly facility where child protection, criminal justice, and child treatment professionals work together to investigate abuse, hold offenders accountable, and help children heal. CACs make it possible for children, who have lived in darkness and pain, to begin to have hope for a bright future.
(In April), we recognize and bring awareness to the issue of child abuse by placing pinwheels in our yards and holding children in our hearts. The next time you see a pinwheel, think of how we as a community can prevent abuse before it happens. And may we all hold these 4,500 West Virginia children in our hearts and support the journey each of them is on toward hope and healing.
To learn more about the services offered by Just For Kids, visit our Facebook page at justforkidscac or our web site at jfkwv.com. To report child abuse call 1-800-352-6513.
Tristan Nutter is the outreach advocate for Just For Kids Child Advocacy Center.