I remember my childlike amusement with this neon green pinwheel that my mom bought for me one summer. Opening up my window, I would watch it spin through endless flickering revolutions. I called it my wind meter, a tool I used to watch the breeze. My brilliant, six-year-old-self thought I had discovered how to see air, a definite résumé builder during my first grade career. The science fair would be taken storm with this new invention; my baking soda volcano demonstration would have to be put on hold – for research purposes of course.
This plastic, sparkling, ninety-nine cent wind meter was a fixture of my childhood, a trophy I got for simply being a goofy kid. While I have since realized that the wind is not a visual phenomenon, though I wholeheartedly believed so for many years, I still appreciate the energy it flashes into pinwheels, beacons of innocent and carefree days.
I now have an even deeper veneration for this token of my youth knowing that it is symbolic of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. During April of each year pinwheels are displayed to bring attention to this issue, representing the worry-free environment that every child should experience.
In his 2015 Presidential Proclamation for National Child Abuse Prevention Month, President Obama remarked that “This month, we celebrate the love and courage it takes to raise a child; we reaffirm the fundamental human rights of all children to live free from violence and abuse; and we rededicate ourselves to ending the cycle of harm too many girls and boys face.”
No child should have to grow up prematurely because of a violent household. No child should fear home, a space that should be centered on comfort and compassion. No child should ever experience abuse, but sadly each year over six million do. According to Pennsylvania’s 2013 Annual Child Abuse Report, there were 821 suspected cases reported in Bucks County alone.
As I walk to my 9:30 a.m. class every morning and see bunches of pinwheels rooted in the spring grass, I am reminded that this is a problem in my own backyard. In my hometown where I have always felt nurtured and safe, there are kids who fear getting off the bus and walking through their front doors. There are kids who do not have the luxury of enjoying the simple pleasure of watching a pinwheel spin in the wind. This month of awareness advocates on their behalf to restore the magic of childhood, a fanciful and formative period that in many ways influences the future stages of life. Most importantly, this month is dedicated to identifying the warning signs of abuse and understanding how to report them.
There are multiple signs to look out for. Some of these include: unexplained injuries, changes in behavior, fear of going home, changes in school performance or attendance, and risk-taking behaviors. If you, or anyone you know recognizes changes such as these in a child, do not hesitate to call Pennsylvania’s child abuse 24-hour hotline at 800-932-0313.
A Woman’s Place (AWP) feels passionate about this issue because the number one predictor of child abuse is woman abuse. These two sectors of aggression are commonly interconnected and combined under one family roof, therefore, they must be understood in relation to one another. AWP does not just help women in need; they also offer services and support for any children involved.
The Prevention Project at AWP also provides programs such as Peace Works! and Choose Kind: It Works that are designed to “address domestic and dating violence awareness and prevention in an effort to stop this issue before it starts.” Through educating local youth, AWP seeks to stop the cycle of abuse that so often passes from one generation to the next by providing tools to cultivate healthy and trusting relationships. It is hoped that through programs such as these that rates of abuse will continually decline as more children are taught how to communicate effectively and develop empathy for those around them.
As April wraps up, and National Child Abuse Prevention Month comes to a close, it is important to recognize that this is an ongoing struggle. Every ten seconds, a report of child abuse is made. In the five minutes it takes to read this article, 30 reports have been recorded.
Be mindful of your role as an informed individual, and never hesitate to do the right thing. Like the breeze that I endearingly tried measuring with my wind meter, you too can be a powerful force. As May approaches remember that change starts in your backyard, and although the pinwheels may disappear, the fight to end child abuse will continue until no child is robbed of their innocence.
Student, James Madison University and AWP 2015 Summer Intern