What do blue and silver pinwheels and child abuse prevention have to do with one another?
The childhood toy is reminiscent of a day of innocence and frolicking barefoot on a sunny day as a cool, gentle breeze caresses our faces. But these spinning, bright blue and silver pinwheels glistening in the sunshine across a Frankfort lawn also are disparate reminders that the sweet innocence of childhood years has been spoiled for some of Kentucky’s kids, encroached upon by painful words, bodily injuries, continual suffering, willful neglect, even wrongful death. Sometimes the very hands of those whom they thought loved them most struck in horrifying force, denied essential nourishment, refused critical medical care or lacked understanding compassion.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. In observance, Sunrise Children Services staff joined other Kentucky advocates for children in planting hundreds of pinwheels last week on the Capital grounds, beckoning state lawmakers and citizens to celebrate the progress being made in strengthening child abuse prevention measures in Kentucky.
“There is something so poignant and powerful about this event,” said Dale Suttles, president of Sunrise Children’s Services. “When you realize the pain and suffering each one of those pinwheels represents, it brings into razor-sharp focus just what those children have endured and the consequences they will face for the rest of their lives.”
According to a media packet provided by the Prevent Child Abuse—Kentucky organization, abusive head trauma, commonly known as “shaken baby syndrome,” continues to be a leading cause of child abuse related deaths. Tragic at any age, abusive head trauma is most common in babies less than one year old.
One in 10 children will experience sexual abuse prior to their 18th birthday, the state’s leading child abuse prevention organization notes. In Kentucky, 1,825 children were reported as victims of sexual abuse last year alone. Horrifyingly, 60 percent of those are abused by someone in their social circle, suggesting that the phrase “stranger danger” is somewhat misleading.
Kentucky’s Cyber Crime Unit seizes more than 272 child pornographic images and videos every day. Just as disturbing should be the 1,264 percent increase in sex crimes committed via the internet in recent years. And something every parent should take note of is that sources cited by Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky report that one in 25 children, ages 10-17, receives an online sexual solicitation.
While numbers are increasing, so has public awareness that child abuse may be occurring right in our own communities. We can be part of the solution though, working together to make the homes of all children safe places.
“We know child abuse can be prevented, and we know how to do it; but we cannot do it alone,” observes Jill Seyfred of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky. “Every time you see a blue and silver pinwheel this month, think about a child who will benefit from your awareness of child abuse and neglect. Take time out. Report. Get involved. It works,” she urges others.
Displays, such as the pinwheels on the Capital lawn, remind us that it is everyone’s duty and moral responsibility to protect our children from physical abuse and sexual predators. As Christians, we must make it a priority to protect Kentucky families and commit ourselves and our churches to do everything we can to guard our children from abuse.
Referring to the pinwheel display, Suttles wrote in a recent Facebook post, “It’s very moving, especially for those of us who work with abused and neglected children each day, and a reminder of the intrinsic worth of every human being.
“It’s why the work we do is so important,” Suttles added. And, it’s why the support of Kentucky Baptists for the ministry of Sunrise Children’s Service through the Cooperative Program is so important in helping provide safe environs, foster care, counseling and adoption services for more than 700 children. You can start by uplifting Sunrise’s staff and house parents, Child Abuse Prevention organizations, and the children they serve in prayer this Sunday, and by contacting Suttles to find out how you and your church can become involved in helping hurting children.