Loose Ends: Taking a stand against child abuse

More than 1,100 pinwheels are spinning on the southwest corner of the Rio Blanco County courthouse, representing abused children in Colorado last year. The sign behind the pinwheels reads: Take a Stand. In 2009 11,339 children in Colorado were abused and neglected, 33 of those children were from Rio Blanco County. Each pinwheel represents 10 abused children. April was first designated Child Abuse Prevention Month in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan.­ Photo by Bobby Gutierrez

It takes a village to raise children and it takes a community to stop child abuse. The big white sign on the courthouse lawn is not the eye-catcher; it is the patch of pinwheels representing all of the abused and neglected children across the state of Colorado. Topped with the bold, black words, Take A Stand, the facts of abuse are stated: 11,339 children in Colorado were abused in 2009, and 33 of those children in Rio Blanco County.
At first sight, the pinwheels seem to represent spring and the celebration of new life during the season. It isn’t until one sees the shiny spinning wheels juxtaposed against the simple black and white sign that it has its full effect. The pinwheel’s symbolism strikes just the right note. It does not overlook a somber situation and offers some hope for community action. The message of the sign makes each one of us stop and think.
Too many of us are familiar with the problem of abuse and neglect, as often community residents put up with a family member or neighbor’s anger problem and turn away when there are obvious signs of both.  Excuses for the aggressor may include socioeconomic problems such as lack of employment or physical and mental illness and seem to buy time for the abuser. There is no excuse, ever.
The use of a simple pinwheel to symbolize childhood is apt. Putting them out on the courthouse lawn in early spring was the bright idea of the Rio Blanco County Department of Social Services. The visual effect of the freewheeling toys in front of the sign is jarring.
A simple call to the department of social services is all it takes to let both the abuser and the victim know that this community won’t let it continue. Think of the child who grows up without a childhood and returns to his or her hometown with the question for family, neighbors and friends. “Couldn’t you see it?” or “didn’t you have your suspicions?” are only two of the questions asked by children who grow up thinking no one cares.
Take a stand, urges the sign behind the pinwheels. Faces of the abused and neglected aren’t posted anywhere. The community doesn’t need that type of reminder, they see the children they suspect are living in circumstances they don’t deserve. Most likely the number for the past two years hasn’t gone down. One can speculate that in these tough economic times, it has most likely gone up. That number also represents the cases that year as “officially” abused, or documented.
Thirty-three abused children in our county is too many. Step forward and speak out for the children of Rio Blanco County. Take a stand.

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