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Advocates Raise Awareness About Child Abuse

TSPR'S Emily Boyer
WIRC held its annual "Hands Around the Courthouse" event to raise awareness about child abuse. Those in attendance held a blue ribbon, which is the color for Child Abuse Awareness Month.

The Western Illinois Regional Council met with about 370 children over the past year who were at risk of being abused. WIRC’s Children’s Legal Advocate Mikki Harrison said child abuse and neglect remains a significant problem in this region. She said about 20 of those children had weekly appointments with Regional Council staff.

“Somewhat of a counseling role, I just tried to really be there to hear their voice. Sometimes when we are working with the moms and dads in the situation we don’t really take the time to see what the kids are going through,” Harrison said.

In recognition of Child Abuse Awareness month, the Regional Council's theme for April is: “Protecting children is everybody’s job.” Harrison said adults can help by listening to and believing children if they report abuse. She said signs of abuse often include changes in the child’s behavior or appetite.

And she said child abuse can take many forms.

“We are referring to the physical. But there’s a lot of mental and verbal abuse that goes along with that too,” Harrison said.

“And children (who see) violence happen, even if they are not the ones being hit, that’s a part of child abuse.”

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.