Each year over 10,000 Hoosier children walk through the doors of an Indiana Child Advocacy Center after an allegation of abuse, neglect, or sexual assault. Hundreds more children are abused that we don’t know about or never come forward. Locally, the CAC of Southeastern Indiana served 481 children in the last year with forensic interviews and medical treatment.
To honor those abused and neglected children during child abuse awareness month this April, CACSEI invites you to observe the 481 pinwheels planted outside our Rullman Drive office in Dillsboro.
“For every child we helped, we know there are more — probably many more — who are trapped, unaware of what is happening to them, or in need of help right now,” said Kelly Bridges, the Associate Director of CACSEI.
The pinwheels will remain throughout the month of April. But the need will persist long after they’re gone. “90% of the time children know their abuser. We talk to kids a lot about ‘stranger danger’, but not as much about what to do if someone they supposedly trust betrays that trust,” said Bridges.
Indiana law requires everyone regardless of age or occupation to report any suspicion of child abuse. “Children most often won’t run up to you and tell you something terrible happened to them because they don’t have the words or understanding to explain it,” said Bridges. “Be aware of the signs of abuse and know how to approach children without pressuring them or making them feel scared or embarrassed.”
Common signs of abuse or neglect include physical markings on a child’s body, inconsistent stories, torn or dirty clothes worn many days in a row, severe reactions when lightly touched or hugged, sudden loss of appetite, and in young children intense anger. “Severe and out-of-the-ordinary anger that we sometimes associate as ‘temper tantrums’ can be children trying to express emotion because they don’t have the vocabulary to verbalize it. When you or I are angry, we know how to say so. But children have to be much more expressive,” said Bridges.
If you suspect abuse, call 911 in an emergency or call the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline at 1-888-888-5556. The hotline is free, anonymous, and trained Department of Child Services caseworkers will ask you clear questions to properly screen calls.