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Pinwheels bring attention to child abuse prevention

Becky Vargo • Apr 10, 2019 at 10:00 AM

A few local residents and representatives from area agencies planted a pinwheel garden Tuesday during a kickoff event at the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety to promote awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Arbor Circle Program Manager Leigh Moerdyke invited the event speakers to focus on one thing as they spoke about their part in the theme: “Always the Power of One.”

The prevention and diversity director for the Children’s Advocacy Center, Cassandra Kiger, encouraged people to speak up and use their voice to protect children.

There are 68,000 children in Ottawa County. Of those, 6,800 will be sexually abused before they reach adulthood, Kiger said.

“Our goal is prevention,” she said, noting that Arbor Circle has worked with 8,000 children so far this year in that regard.

According to information released by the local Children’s Advocacy Center, the numbers of abuse victims are slowly declining as prevention efforts continue. All of the local organizations are members of the Stop Child Abuse and Neglect Council.

Megan Hennessey, the clinical services supervisor for the Center for Women in Transition, said parents need to be aware that “partner abuse is abusive to the child,” and that children are aware of a lot more than their parents think.

“We want to intervene as soon as possible,” she said. 

Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke said he was stunned, as a young police officer in northern Michigan, by the abuse cases that came into his department.

The one that made a huge impact on him was when a woman left her two young children in her boyfriend’s care. The boyfriend assaulted both kids. The little girl was found injured, walking down the street. The little boy was found unconscious, with cigarette burns on his body. The boyfriend was asleep on the couch, Hawke said.

“I’m grateful we have organizations like the Children’s Advocacy Center and Arbor Circle,” Hawke said. “Guard access to your children with vengeance.”

How can you add tools to your power to prevent child sexual abuse? Here are some options to start:

  1. Join organizers at the Guns and Hoses Dodgeball awareness and fundraising event on Saturday, April 13, at the Macatawa Bay Middle School gym, from 12-3 p.m. This event is open to the public and all proceeds will go to the Children’s Advocacy Center’s efforts to eradicate child abuse in our community.
  2. Visit the Prevention page at the CAC website to see a variety of training options and tools that you can implement today: cac-ottawa.org/prevention/.
  3. Get more information about the national, evidence-based Darkness to Light adult training that focuses on how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. More information and registration can be found at: surveymonkey.com/r/D2Lregistration.
  4. Visit childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/ for more tips and tools that you can begin implementing today.
  5. Most importantly, do not let your voice go unheard.

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