Local News

April 24, 2014

Number of pinwheels representing child abuse cases here increases

People often feel powerless when it comes to preventing the sexual abuse of children, said Mary Smith, child abuse prevention educator for the Family Support Council.

But there are things that everyone can do to help stop it.

“A change has to be made,” Smith said during the annual Pinwheels for Prevention ceremony at Dalton City Hall on Thursday.

The ceremony is designed to raise awareness of abuse in Whitfield County. Each pinwheel on the lawn of City Hall represents a reported case of child abuse. Last year, there were 1,147 such reports, up from 920 the year before.

The pinwheels only represent reports, not individual children, and not the number of times a report leads to a conviction.

Children are often sexually abused by a person trusted by the family, sometimes even another family member, Smith said.

One in 10 children are sexually abused at least once by the time they turn 18, she said.

“Most children don’t disclose it,” Smith said. “We never know how many are actually abused. Perpetrators can be anyone. Ninety percent of children who are sexually abused know their abuser.”

Sometimes a mom has a boyfriend who is looking for a woman with young children. Sometimes the abusers are athletic coaches, and sometimes they’re even youth leaders in churches. Abusers are looking for vulnerable children, those who are often home alone, those who don’t have parents who talk to them about abuse, Smith said.

Smith once heard a pedophile talk about the children he targeted.

“He worked in a church and had access to the children,” she said. “There was one child he never touched. He knew the proper names for body parts. It meant someone had talked to him and trained him.”

People must continue to talk to children about abuse and their bodies, Smith said.

A film was shown where victims of child abuse who are now adults spoke about what it was like to be abused, who abused them and how they have dealt with that abuse. Many said it was a family member or another trusted adult.

Also at the ceremony, Eton Elementary and Coker Elementary schools in Murray County were recognized for being Heroes Against Child Abuse for raising money for the Family Support Council, which works to prevent child abuse.

“We don’t do a lot of fundraisers at Eton,” said Principal Judy Redmond. “We have kids who are unfortunately victims of child abuse. We do this for our community.”

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