Prevent Child Abuse, Neglect

More than 33,000 children are abused and/or neglected every year in West Virginia and Ohio. Those are the victims we know about. Many others live – and sometimes die – with abuse and neglect.

Child abuse victims in the Ohio Valley were remembered Saturday at Oglebay Park. The Harmony House Children’s Advocacy Center released 287 balloons during its “Hope for Spring” event. Harmony House coordinator Joanna Merriman explained the balloons “symbolize the children who are brave enough to discuss their abuse.”

For every child who reports being abused, there probably is another one who fails to do so, Merriman said.

Harmony House helps children in Ohio, Marshall and Belmont counties. Sadly, the organization has plenty to do. Reports of child abuse and neglect in our area are frequent.

There is some good news for West Virginians and Ohioans. Child abuse and neglect seem to be declining in both our states.

In West Virginia, 5,300 children were listed as victims of abuse and/or neglect in 2008, according to the

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. By 2012, the last year for which statistics were available, the number had dropped to 4,591.

In Ohio, 33,331 children were victimized in 2008. By 2012 the number was down to 29,250.

But look at the numbers again. In 2012, 33,841 children were abused and/or neglected in our states. Good Lord.

Most of the time, children are victimized by people they know. More than half the abuse and neglect reports involve family members.

Forty percent of victims in West Virginia are 6 years old or younger, according to the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network.

And most of the time, sexual abuse is involved.

If it seems to you government agencies are doing better in combatting child abuse and neglect, you are right. Here in West Virginia, circuit courts have reduced dramatically the time it takes for them to handle abuse and neglect cases.

Again, however, look at the numbers. It is not too much to say that child abuse is an epidemic in our states – as it is throughout the nation.

Let’s hope the statistics continue to show less child abuse and neglect in our states. Meanwhile, law enforcement and child welfare agencies should be given whatever resources they need to protect children. This is a situation in which the motto should be: Whatever it takes.