By ROB W. ANDERSON
More than five children die every day as a result of abuse. Child abuse can involve bruises or broken bones, but it can also mean emotional abuse or neglect, which leaves deep scars that may be hard to detect.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and a group of local child and family service organizations held a Rally Against Child Abuse at Cherokee Square. The April 17 event marked the sixth year a public rally was held at the historic site to raise public awareness about child abuse and neglect.
Supporters of the child protection movement signed a pledge to stand up against child abuse and were given blue ribbons to tie on a tree to symbolize community awareness of the sometimes hidden epidemic.
The blue ribbon has always represented a stand against child abuse, said Cherokee Country Court Appointed Special Advocate Executive Director Jo Prout.
“[April] is a blue-ribbon month. It’s a sign there’s awareness in the community that we do not stand for child abuse,” she said. “We want to see it end. Children are too special, too precious.”
Other local child and family-service related organizations that helped plan the event included Hope House, Kid Connections, and Smart Start Cherokee County. Help-In-Crisis, Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare and the Cherokee County Department of Human Services were on hand to provide information and answer questions, while students from the Cherokee Nation Talking Leaves Job Corps helped set up for the event.
Aside from the blue-ribbon tree, 86 pinwheels were placed on the Cherokee Square lawn to represent the children that CASA has supported and represented during court proceedings. Pinwheels are also used to symbolize children who have been abused or neglected.
“The community needs to increase its awareness to protect all children,” said Talking Leaves Job Corps student Marshon Potts.
Potts’ Job Corps peer Daquan Roberts agreed.
“No child should be abused,” he said.
BancFirst employee Jennifer Simpson attended the rally with colleague Carla Cary, who is a CASA board member, to learn more about child abuse prevention and the organizations that make it their mission to ensure child safety.
“I am participating to become more aware of what CASA does as an organization,” she said. “I’m learning about the prevention of child abuse, the many children we take care of here locally, and how that impacts our community.”
According to the national organization known as Child Help, about 80 percent of the children who die as a result of abuse or neglect are under age 4, while between 50 to 60 percent of child fatalities caused by maltreatment are not identified as such on the death certificate. The organization reports abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and all levels of education.
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