By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
As an 11-year-old boy sat handcuffed to his front porch in a rural area with a dead chicken tied around his neck, he cried out, “Help!”
His pleas were answered by a law enforcement officer, who happened to be searching nearby for a lost animal in the woods. There, he found the badly bruised child, who had been tortured by his foster parents. His wrist was broken and his fingernails ripped off causing an infection to spread throughout his hand. His foster parents were arrested for child abuse and are now in prison.
For a 1-year-old girl, she suffered abuse at the hands of her step-grandmother, who was babysitting. Her mother noticed blood at the corner of her mouth and discovered bite marks on the child’s left leg and right butt cheek. The child was rushed to the hospital and the extent of her injuries revealed. The step-grandmother has been charged with child abuse and bail was set at $10,000.
An 11-year-old Flint boy had his abuse publicized on Facebook, when his mother and grandmother posted a video of them slapping the child in the face and repeatedly beating the boy with a belt. The boy buckled at the knees and grimaced in pain, as he was struck over 50 times. Both were charged with third-degree child abuse.
Thousands of children in Michigan suffer from broken limbs, fractured skulls and bruised bodies at the hands of those assumed to love and protect them.
Child abuse prevention organizations and advocates across the country seek to raise awareness by designating April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Participants are asked to don an ugly or outlandish tie or scarf for a day to raise awareness that there is 'nothing uglier than child abuse.'
Statistics released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveal the United States has one of the worst rates of child abuse among industrialized nations; on average five children die every day from abuse and neglect. The Center for Disease Control has estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience sexual abuse.
The Tie One On Campaign is an effort to unite abuse prevention organizations, advocates, community leaders, and citizens to start thinking, talking, and acting to prevent abuse.
"Closing our eyes to the abuse of one child is unacceptable and for the hundreds of thousands of children suffering in our country we have to wonder where our priorities lie if we won't do more to protect our most vulnerable citizens," says Adrianne Simeone, founder of The Mama Bear Effect. "Children have a right to a safe and nurturing childhood, and it is our responsibility to protect that right."
Recent news stories regarding child abuse has stressed the need for people to say something if they see or fear something is happening to a child. Michigan’s toll-free child abuse hotline, 855-444-3911, is professionally staffed 24/7 year round.
“We can be a powerful voice for Michigan’s children and work together to prevent child abuse and neglect,” said Nick Lyon, interim director of Michigan Department of Human Services. “Whether we’re focusing on improving our services to children through our programs, or calling to report concerns to Michigan’s child abuse hotline, we all play a role in ensuring our children are safe and protected.”
More than 3 million reports of child abuse are made each year, involving about 6 million victims. A report is made about every 10 seconds in the United States.
In Michigan, those charged with first degree child abuse can face up to life in prison and will be placed on the Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry as a perpetrator.
Abuse is defined as “harm or threatened harm to child's health or welfare that occurs through non-accidental physical or mental injury, sexual abuse/exploitation, or maltreatment.”
This year on April 23, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. the Michigan Children’s Trust Fund will host their 7th annual State of Michigan’s Prevention Awareness Day rally, procession and pinwheel ‘garden’ planting event in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Prevention Awareness Day will take place at the steps of the State Capitol in downtown Lansing.
This one hour event brings together notable speakers, entertainment and hundreds of people to recognize the issues of child maltreatment and to honor all the children and families of Michigan.
The event's theme is once more The Power of One. This statewide initiative under the leadership of the Children's Trust Fund asserts that the power of one person, one community, one dollar and one action can make a positive impact on the prevention of child abuse.
To prevent child abuse, one should recognize the following signs:
•Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns;
•Injuries that don't match the given explanation;
•Untreated medical or dental problems;
•Withdrawal from friends or usual activities;
•Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance;
•Depression, anxiety or a sudden loss of self-confidence;
•An apparent lack of supervision;
•Frequent absences from school or reluctance to ride the school bus;
•Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn't want to go home;
•Attempts at running away;
•Rebellious or defiant behavior; and,
•Attempts at suicide.
“I can recall how I felt all alone, as a child. I would wear long sweaters to school to hide the bruises on my arms,” says Shanice Mitchell, 36 of Detroit. “My parents were drug addicts and would beat on me constantly. They treated me like I was a punching bag. It wasn’t until I came to school one day with a bruise on my face that people started to take notice. My teacher reported it, and I was saved from the hands of my parents. I went to stay with my aunt, and things got better. While my bruises healed, the emotional scars inflicted are still with me today.”
Like Mitchell’s teacher, anyone can help rescue a child suspected of being abused. Reports can be made at DHS Protective Service’s 24-Hour Hotline at (313) 396-0300.
Childhelp is a national organization that provides crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. A hotline is offered that is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453).