Students raise child abuse awareness

Published 11:58 am Thursday, March 7, 2019

Students from Longwood University addressed the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors at its February meeting to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect.

Speaking first to supervisors was Haley Hobbs.

“I’m here tonight on behalf of the social work policy class at Longwood University to ask you all to help in joining us to create a proclamation to declare April ‘Child Abuse Awareness Month’ in Prince Edward County to also help in the education process and spreading awareness of child abuse and neglect,” she said. “Children are a vulnerable population who need our help in making sure their safety is ensured.”

Hobbs then shared some striking statistics illustrating her point.

“Children who have just been born up to the age of 18 get abused on a daily basis,” she said. “Approximately 3 million cases of child abuse and neglect involving almost 5.5 million children are reported each year, 74.9 percent of victims are neglected, 18.3 percent of victims are physically abused, 8.6 percent of victims are sexually abused and 7.1 percent of victims are psychologically maltreated.

“Almost five children die every day from abuse,” Hobbs continued. “In the year 2017, it was estimated that 1,720 children died from abuse and neglect. 75.4 percent of child abuse victims die from neglect, and 41.6 percent die from physical abuse. Close to 65,000 children are sexually abused and more than 90 percent of juveniles know the perpetrator.”

She then brought the focus home to the county.

“In Prince Edward County alone, there are 16 referrals, with 12 of them being investigated of sexual abuse, 60 reports of physical and 121 reports of physical neglect in 2018 alone,” she said. “I can go on with the heart-wrenching statistics of how horrible child abuse and neglect is, but I’m here today to ask you all to help in joining us to create a proclamation … As a class, we have found several different proclamations to go off of, but we cannot complete this task without your help. Please consider helping to declare April as ‘Child Abuse Awareness Month’ so as a community, we can hopefully lower these statistics.”

Farmville 701 District Supervisor and Board Chairman Jim Wilck was receptive to Hobbs and the other students on hand.

“If you can give us a copy of the proclamation, we will certainly read it and vote at our next meeting,” he said. “I’m speaking only for myself, you understand, but it certainly seems like something I could support.”

Longwood student Lacie Ellithorpe followed up on Hobbs’ proposal with a brief statement about events supporting child abuse awareness.

“We would like to ask for permission to put on collaborative events for the community,” she said.

Ellithorpe highlighted an instructor who was a former director of Greater Richmond SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) that is an authorized facilitator and is willing to put on a Stewards of Children training session in the county.

“The session will be a very contemporary video- and discussion-based child sexual abuse training, which is shared with members of the public nationwide,” Ellithorpe said. “Training will be available free of charge and will last about two-and-a-half hours. We would like to do a press conference information session to inform community members of the severity of child abuse. We have commitment from Megan Clark from the Commonwealth Attorney’s office for collaboration and planning of these events. We do have other ideas in progress. This will be of no cost to the board. We will reach out to the public entities in Prince Edward, such as the library, for meeting spaces, and these events will be open to everyone in the county.”