story and photo by Kim Souza
Editor’s note: During 2012, The City Wire is publishing a series of stories focusing on people and organizations working in our communities to raise awareness of child abuse and reduce abuse figures. See the list of related stories at the bottom of this page for more stories on the topic.
Some 416 colorful pinwheels decorate the lawns of city police stations across Benton County. But a sign posted in their midst tells why, and instantly erases the smiles of those who read it.
Each pinwheel represents a local child who was abused in 2011, children whose lives will forever be scared by incidents they could not control.
Beverly Engle, director for the Children’s Advocacy Center in Benton County, said it’s the tenth year the county has used pinwheels to raise awareness for child abuse during the month of April.
She said the pinwheel is symbolic of a child’s innocence, which is lost far too soon for hundreds of local children each year.
“There were 2,000 calls to the hotline last year reporting child abuse in Benton County. From that there were 621 cases opened and 416 of those were substantiated - 87% of which involved sexual abuse. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Engle said.
Statistics show by the time a male pedophile is convicted he has left an average of 192 victims behind. In fact statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse by the time they are 18.
The number of local substantiated cases declined from 527 in 2010 to 416 in 2011, but Engle said in the first three months of this year there have already been 195 reported cases in Benton County.
“We hope the number of incidences will continue to decrease over time, but fully expect the numbers to rise in the short run as awareness is heightened and its more commonly reported,” Engle said.
Since the local child advocacy center opened in 2000, it has seen more than 3,500 children and the prosecution of child abuse cases has increased over 2,000%.
Engle said even though the number of pinwheels now on display is 21% fewer than a year ago, the annual rate is more than one child a day who has been through the center with substantiated abuse.
“It’s a sad, sad thing when you see a child burned with cigarettes or sexually abused by a family member or friend. But there are few support networks for the children or their families which are often pulled apart by the allegations,” Engle said. “We just do what we can to help.”
On April 13 the child advocacy center will host its annual Glow Run, cherishing children challenge. Event details can be found on the center’s website.
National Child Abuse Statistics
Every 10 seconds, a report of child abuse is made.More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.
More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victim know their perpetrators.
Child abuse occurs in all ethnicities, religions and without regard to socioeconomic or educational attainment.
The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States is $124 billion.