April is National Child Abuse and Neglect awareness month.
On Friday a pinwheel garden was planted in front of the Dunklin County Courthouse bringing awareness to this disturbing issue.
I heard some horrific stories that morning.
One in particular stands out.
Miss Beverly Alford-Thomas clutched a pinwheel to her chest with a picture of a young girl on it.
She recounted to me how the young girl had been killed.
To hurt a child sounds so incomprehensible and yet it happens daily.
A child that has been hurt physically stands out.
A cut here, a bruise here, and scars.
What about those children with invisible scars?
Those that suffer from harsh words, neglect of food, and exposure to vile acts?
It’s harder to spot these precious ones.
Through research I found a few warning signs for concerning emotional abuse and neglect.
An emotionally abused child will appear excessively withdrawn, fearful, and anxious about doing something wrong.
They won’t appear to be attached to a parent or caregiver.
A few warning signs for neglect include wearing filthy clothes or clothes that are inappropiate for the weather.
Another red flag is consistently poor hygiene.
There are many myths surrounding child abuse as well, such as it’s only abuse if it’s violent, abuse doesn’t happen in “good” families, and most child abusers are strangers.
In fact most abusers are family members or others close to the family.
Reporting child abuse is everyone’s responsibility.
Remember, err on the side of over-reporting. If you have the thought, “Maybe I should call....”__DO!
The Children’s Division Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is a toll-free telephone line, 1-800-392-3738, which is answered seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
As you pass by the courthouse and see the pinwheel garden, reflect on those little ones we’ve lost and those that continue to suffer.
Remember to be aware of invisible scars.
See you out there.