With nearly two incidents of child abuse happening every day in Warren and Van Buren County counties, prosecutors and protective service officials say they need the help of the public in catching those who are hurting children.
“There’s a hotline people can call and report if they suspect child abuse in any form, whether it is physical, sexual or by neglect,” said Martha Phillips, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center for the 31st Judicial District, noting people can remain anonymous when they call. The phone number is 877-237-0004.
Her comments came during a roundtable discussion at McMinnville Noon Exchange Club, which helps support the work of the local Children’s Advocacy Center.
Phillips said the victims of child abuse are often too scared or, in many cases, too young to know how to report what’s happening.
“The majority of victims we see are 6 years of age and under,” Phillips said.
The Children’s Advocacy Center provides a child-friendly venue where criminal investigators and child services can meet with a victimized child to get information about what has happened.
“People don’t want to hear about it,” Zavogiannis said of child abuse. “It’s still something taboo to talk about, but we’re going around spreading the word to schools, churches and civic groups that it’s OK to tell someone if you’re being abused. We’re not going to be able to prosecute our way out of child abuse. Education is the key.”
Phillips said there is a vicious circle when it comes to child abuse and the abused often become the abusers when they become adults.
“It’s multi-generational and it’s hard to break the cycle,” Phillips admitted.
Zavogiannis suggests people who suspect child abuse to be persistent in reporting the crime.
“Keep calling if nothing is done,” Zavogiannis encouraged. “We can’t give up on our kids.”