Advocates Raise Awareness of Child Abuse in Community
HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB) — April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, where advocates from around the region work to prevent future crimes against children.
This morning, a local father shared his heartbreak — explaining just how easily his daughter became a victim.
He also explained how the community stepped up, and helped his family pick up the pieces.
“In our case, the perpetrator was a very well known member of the community, sort of a pillar of the community — of a local theater group, where everything was out in the open and out in the daylight and everyone seemed very legitimate and it wasn’t,” says Jeffrey Seriano.
This morning, Jeff shared his heartbreak with hundreds at the Northwest Children’s Advocacy Project’s annual child abuse awareness event.
“The first thing you realize is, I’ve got support here,” says Seriano. “I don’t have to go through this alone, and that helps a lot with the darkness you’re sort of overcome by.”
While the resources are in place to help victims, advocates say there are still too many children who end up becoming victims.
“Last year we had 353 children who were either sexually or physically abused,” says Susan Loehn, Executive Director of the Northwestern Children’s Advocacy Center. “That doesn’t include all the neglect cases.”
She adds, “Just the actual physical abuse — that’s a lot of children a year, that’s almost one child a day.”
“People think it happens only in rural areas, or maybe in big cities or to children who don’t have a lot of money, but it happens all over,” adds Loehn.
As the father of a young girl who’s lived through that horror, Jeff says vigilance is your only defense.
“I just would advise, follow your intuition,” says Seriano. “Ask questions that you think are unnecessary, even delve in beyond that, because harm can come to your child without you being aware of it and it’s such a tragedy. ”
You can find a list of child abuse and neglect warning signs here.