The more people watching, the less likely abuse will occur By Stardust Red Bow, MSW, CSW
CSS Outpatient Therapist, Adoption Specialist April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and this spring marks the twentieth anniversary of the Blue Ribbon Campaign against child abuse. Bonnie Finney, a grandmother from Virginia, began the Blue Ribbon Campaign in 1989 following the death of her grandson from child abuse. The color blue was chosen to symbolize the bruises inflicted on children who are the victims of abuse. Despite her grief, Finney chose to use her story to encourage others to take action to end child abuse. Unfortunately, child abuse is still present in South Dakota. According to the Child Welfare League of America, there were 14,260 reports of child abuse or neglect in South Dakota in 2006, and 3,908 of those reports were referred for investigation. Those children may have been victims of neglect, or physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse. In Pennington County in 2008, the police department investigated 45 sexual abuse cases, and the sheriff's department investigated 121 sexual abuse cases. In 2008, 277 children, who were alleged victims of sexual or physical abuse, were interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center of the Black Hills (statistics provided by Steve Deming, Children's Home Society). Looking at the numbers and listening to news reports may be discouraging, but there are ways that everyone can help prevent child abuse. If you are a parent or caregiver … 1. Reach out to others when you are feeling tired or frustrated. Do not take your emotions out on your children. 2. Take a parenting class. 3. Develop a network of friends and family members who care about you and your children. The more people who are watching out for your children, the less likely abuse will occur or go unreported. 4. Educate your children about safety. Teach them that abusers are not always strangers and that there are no secrets they need to keep from you. Tell the child that it is okay to tell you if abuse occurs, even if the abuser threatens to hurt someone else if they tell. If you know a parent or caregiver … 1. Offer them support. 2. Encourage them to seek counseling if they seem depressed or angry. 3. Educate them about child development, so they have realistic expectations of themselves and their children. 4. Babysit for them if they need a break. 5. Help them access social services when needed. Coping with addiction or domestic violence hinders parents' ability to protect their children. If you suspect child abuse or neglect, report it to your local DSS Child Protection Services or tribal child welfare agency. You may do so anonymously. CSS provides counseling services to children, adults and families. CSS holds Common Sense Parenting classes through the main office in Rapid City, 918 5th Street or through the outreach offices located in Mission, Pine Ridge, Eagle Butte, Sturgis and Spearfish. Contact us at 1-800-727-2401, 605-348-6086 or visit the Web site at www.catholic-social-services.com.