We’re accustomed to months that have been given special names and designated as a time to raise our awareness about a particular problem or disease or cause. Most are worthy, but we tend to nod in acknowledgement of them – and then move on.
We don’t need to do much more than read the daily headlines to make us aware of the problem of child abuse. That has been especially true in recent weeks, as we cringe at stories about children, some infants, beaten and mistreated, often by those who are supposed to protect and care for them.
We don’t need much more provocation to acknowledge the importance of Child Abuse Awareness & Prevention Month. But, as related in Tuesday’s front-page story by Herald columnist Andrew Dys, a special ceremony at Rock Hill’s City Hall Plaza helped drive the message home.
Last year, York County experienced more than 250 cases of abuse and neglect. In the past four months, at least three children in the county have died as the result of what authorities say was abuse.
The nature of abuse varies. Sometimes it is a violent attack, resulting in bruises, broken bones, internal injuries or worse. Many times it is neglect, failure to provide food and water, clean clothes, a decent place to sleep, enough warmth or relief from oppressive heat.
Always it is the innocent, those too young to protect themselves or their younger siblings, who suffer. But the suffering is not inevitable; it can be stopped if the right people intervene.
Family Court Judge David Guyton, speaking at Monday’s ceremony, said that the Department of Social Services, police and other agencies must constantly be on the lookout for signs of abuse. But Guyton also stressed that the community must take an active role in identifying and reporting abuse.
We can’t turn our gaze from suspected abuse and hope that the problem will take care of itself. And it is better to err on the side of reporting suspected abuse, even it it turns out to be a false alarm.
The community also can be supportive of programs that teach parents, especially young, first-time parents, coping skills to deal with babies who won’t stop crying or children who refuse to obey. Parents can learn effective responses that don’t involve violence, either physical or verbal, and they can learn what is required to keep their children safe, clean, healthy and happy.
Many months are designated to special observances, and we would not denigrate any of them in any way. But do we, as adults, have any more important task thrust upon us than to protect the children?
Let us truly take to heart the meaning of Child Abuse Awareness & Prevention Month and pledge to do what we can to reduce this horrible scourge.