BROOKVILLE — Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commissioners proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Jefferson County.
Pat Berger, executive director of Western PA CARES for Kids, was on hand for the proclamation. She said the effects of child abuse are long-term and far reaching.
“Child abuse is a community problem, and the community needs to be involved to prevent child abuse,” Berger said. “There are more than three million children abused each year, and the effects are felt by the whole area.”
Berger said children who are abused have a higher likelihood of using drugs and alcohol, and do so at an earlier age. They are also more likely to be involved in the juvenile criminal system and often abuse their own children as adults.
“Child abuse is more than just a problem for that child and that family,” she said. “Education and awareness is an important step in prevention of these crimes.”
District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett was in attendance for the proclamation, and agreed with Berger’s assessment.
“Child abuse is a terrible stain on the fabric of our great society,” he said. “Although child abuse has existed since the most ancient of times, it thrived through a culture of silence.
“In Jefferson County, we are doing our best to shatter the culture of silence through programs promoting prevention, awareness and thorough, effective investigation of child abuse.”
Berger said child abuse includes sexual assault, and more than 70 percent of nationally-reported sexual assault crimes were committed against children.
The Jefferson County Advocacy Center alone has seen 160 cases of child abuse since May 2008, Berger said.
The proclamation said in part that “all citizens should become more aware of the negative effects of child abuse and its prevention within the community, and become involved in supporting parents to raise their children in a safe, nurturing environment.”
The proclamation also asked “all citizens, community agencies, religious organizations, medical facilities, and businesses to increase their participation in our efforts to prevent child abuse, thereby strengthening the communities in which we live.”