Rachael Van Horn
In 2013 there were 91 child abuse and neglect cases filed in Woodward, Woods, Alfalfa, Dewey and Major counties.
That is 91 cases where the abuse or neglect of a child was actually reported and a case was filed, according to District 26, District Attorney's office support staff member Meagan Schultz.
For the last two years the District Attorney's office, along with many other area agencies and businesses have become a part of Child Abuse Awareness Month, an effort to raise the awareness that this crime happens, even here in small communities, said Karen Harrison.
To commemorate Child Abuse Awareness Month, many in the community will decorate a tree with blue ribbons, noting in some cases the number of children born here yearly or even in some cases, the number of child abuse cases here.
Woodward Public Schools Transportation Director, Rosetta Loomis said the school buses were decorated for child abuse awareness this year instead of the trees.
"Well, we just don't have as many trees, so we decided to do the awareness for April by decorating the buses," Loomis said. "It is a wonderful teaching and learning opportunity."
The focus on the awareness is aimed at improving the chances that people who witness or even suspect chid abuse feel more empowered to report it, Schultz said.
"These are very hard cases to read and very sad and heartbreaking when a small, innocent child is getting abused or neglected," Schultz said "I just hope that if someone were to see a child being abused in public, they would have the courage to step in."
Indeed, children are the region's most vulnerable when it comes to their safety and if adults who are aware of mistreatment do not report it, the abuse continues, Harrison said.
"Part of this awareness is to get the news out there that we are all mandated reporters," Harrison said. "If you see something, it is important to call the hotline."
Being a mandated reporter typically is referring to anyone who has taken even partial responsibility of the care of a vulnerable person, according to its legal description.
But according to Harrison, the goal is to extend that idea to every and anyone who has a reason to know or has witnessed child abuse.
Mandated reporting, since 1963, the inception of the idea that reporting suspected abuse of children was needed, reports of suspected abuse went from 150,000 to 3.3 million in 2009, according to Stephen M, Krason in his thesis, "The Mondale Act and it's Aftermath : An Overview of Forty Years of American Law and Public Policy and Governmental Response to Child Abuse and Neglect"
While some, even sometimes many of the cases reported are not substantiated, Harrison said it is still important for people to know how to access the hotline so the case can be looked into.
If you witness child abuse, the Child Abuse Hotline is: 800-522-3511.