April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and officials on the state and local levels are doing what they can to get the word out on how to combat the problem.
Harlan County Sheriff Leslie “Smitty” Smith said Child Abuse Prevention Month is a chance to educate.
“This is an opportunity to educate our communities about what child abuse and neglect is and how to prevent it,” said Smith. “When many of us hear the words child abuse, we automatically think of only one part of the problem.”
Smith explained there are four major types of child maltreatment, which are neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse.
According to a press release from Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK), abusive head trauma, or shaken baby syndrome, continues to be the leading cause of child abuse related deaths, and is most common in babies less than a year old. Also, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit seizes more than 272 child pornography images every day, with one in 25 of children ages 10 to 17 receiving an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tries to make offline contact.
Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky Executive Director Jill Seyfred says child abuse is preventable.
“We know child abuse can be prevented, and we know how to do it,” said Seyfred. “We know we are making progress. Not necessarily because the numbers are decreasing, but because awareness has increased, and we are hearing from those who have been most impacted about what the solutions are. Every time you see a blue and silver pinwheel this month, think about a child who will benefit from your awareness of child abuse and neglect. Take time out. Report. Get involved. It works.”
A blue and silver pinwheel has been designated the national symbol of child abuse awareness, according to the PCAK press release.
The release further states one in 10 children will experience child sexual abuse prior to their 18th birthday. Only 12 percent of child sexual abuse is reported to authorities. Approximately 60 percent of victims are abused by someone they know.
“It’s everyone’s legal duty and moral responsibility to protect children from abuse,” said Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear. “Sexual abuse is one of the most devastating forms of abuse for children. It robs them of their childhood and they often carry the scars with them forever. As a father of a 5- and 6-year-old, preventing child abuse is personal to me. Since taking office in January, my office’s Cyber Crimes Branch is on pace to more than triple the number of child sex offenders we arrest and remove from the streets.”
Smith said it is important for every person to be on the lookout for the signs of child abuse.
“I personally believe one of the most important things you can do as a citizen is to constantly be on the lookout for situations where children are in need of assistance and then to notify those entities that can intervene and provide help,” Smith said. “I encourage anyone who suspects any type of neglect or abuse against a child to contact your sheriff’s office or another police agency as soon as possible.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde.