April 24, 2013 —
REGION — “The symbol of child abuse prevention is the pinwheel, and so there are 1,514 pinwheels outside to represent the number of calls that we received for potential child abuse and neglect in Sullivan County last year.”
That was Dr. David Sager, deputy commissioner of the county Department of Family Services, addressing the county legislature on April 19, and informing them that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther was also on hand, and said that she and others in the assembly have been working for seven years to pass legislation that would allow for expanded prosecution of child abuse. She said that at a hearing she heard a Catholic woman testify that her 30-year-old son told her recently that he was abused five times by priests when he was young. Gunther said she wanted to “open the window” of prosecution so that cases that occurred long ago could be dealt with.
Sager read a proclamation from Senator John Bonacic, which said that three million children each year are the victims of neglect or abuse in the U.S. and 1,545 children lose their lives annually because of abuse or neglect; most are younger than four years of age.
In Wayne County, PA, commissioners also passed a resolution declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. They reported that in 2012, 18 children were found to be abused and the majority of the investigations were sexual.
Natalie Burns, the director of Wayne County Children and Youth, said that the agency receives a lot of reports of child abuse, mostly from mandated reporters, such as school personnel, or those involved in custody cases. She said that reports of physical abuse are easier to investigate because of the detectable marks, abrasions, or wounds. Incidents that don’t result in visible injuries such as sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect are more difficult to handle. Investigators often have to screen children to discover any abuse. They receive help in this area from the Children’s Advocacy Center in Scranton, PA, which conducts interviews and gathers corroborating evidence that may help to determine if a child has suffered abuse.