One in five children in Buncombe County has experienced abuse or neglect.
Yes, that number is staggering. It equals more than 4,200 reported cases in 2011. Half of those kids were younger than 6 years old, and the majority were abused by someone they know (and probably trusted). And that distressing number doesn’t represent all of the abused kids. Many incidents go unreported.
“So much of this exists in secrecy,” says Bill McGuire, director of Child Abuse Prevention Services, an Asheville-based prevention, education, and counseling agency.
Most tragic is when the report comes after a child dies at the hands of an abuser — which happens to four children every single day in this country.
In truth, I’d rather not write about child abuse, even from a prevention point of view, because it’s something I’d rather not think about. But not wanting to think or talk about a thing, unfortunately, doesn’t make it go away. Clearly, this isn't one of my humorous columns. It fact, it's stomach-twisting in a whole different way. Sorry about that.
April, in addition to being a month of fools and flowers, is Child Abuse Prevention month. You may see symbolic blue ribbons around town this month, thanks in part to CAPS.
“Our primary goal this month is to increase awareness of child abuse prevention and treatment,” McGuire says. “We hope more people will start or increase their efforts to teach personal safety to their kids.”
He notes that this is a preventable tragedy. Educating both caregivers and children does make a difference.
“One of the best things parents can do is to establish true open communication with their kids,” McGuire adds.
CAPS will be presenting their prevention and personal safety program in city and county schools throughout the month, which offers a great opportunity for parents to talk to kids (saying "no," your body belongs to you). In addition, CAPS provides the “Becoming a Love and Logic Parent” program — a free parenting education course designed to provide us with practical tools and strategies for raising kids. Strategies are always good,.
CAPS also provides counseling and support to thousands of children each year.
“Children ware so resilient. It never ceases to amaze me,” McGuire says.
While that's good to hear, it's not ideal. Not having abuse happen in the first place is preferable.
One of the highlights of the month’s events will be the second Paws for Kids event on April 21. Hundreds of children, adults, and dogs will be walking at Biltmore Park Town Square near the YMCA from 10 a.m. to noon to increase awareness and encourage involvement in protecting both children and animals.
The event, a partnership between CAPS and the Asheville Humane Society, will feature music, dancers, blue bandanas for dogs, blue ribbons for kids, a raffle, pets for adoption, a dog agility demonstration, and more.
“Ironically, there were laws in this country to protect animals long before there were laws to protect kids,” McGuire says.
The Paws for Kids event offers a way to advocate for both. To register for Paws for Kids and to learn more, visit www. childabusepreventionservices.org
If recognition and education can prevent one child from being hurt, that’s a difference. If it can stop many from being abused, that’s huge.