In 2014, state agencies found an estimated 702,000 victims of child abuse and mistreatment. A sobering statistic for sure, but it only paints part of the story as many more cases of child abuse go unreported.
That’s the message Windwood Family Services is sharing during Child Abuse Prevention Month in April. Callie Vanderbilt, director of PR, marketing & special events, said in 2012 there were 174,000 cases of child abuse reported in South Carolina, but “that probably is only half of what is actually happening.”
Windwood, which cares for 27 boys who have been removed from their homes because of neglect or abuse, is launching a campaign using one simple word: “enough.”
“We want everyone in the community to take a stand and speak up and help us break the cycle of abuse,” Vanderbilt said.
A key component of Windwood’s efforts is education and encouraging people to report any sign of abuse, neglect or trauma. That could include children witnessing domestic violence, not having enough food or going to school in dirty clothing as well as signs of physical abuse such as bruises or a child not wanting to go home after school, Vanderbilt said. Signs of sexual abuse include wetting or soiling the bed, acting out sexually or talking about sex in ways that are inappropriate.
In 2014, state agencies identified 1,580 children who died as a result of abuse or neglect. Of those who died, more than 80 percent were not yet old enough for kindergarten.
“It’s always better to make a report if you think something is going on than to not do anything and risk the life of a child,” Vanderbilt said. "If you see something, say something."
Throughout the month of April, people can post their picture on Facebook, and Vanderbilt said those pictures will be compiled into a collage indicating a community pledge to break the cycle of child abuse. “We’re the community that is going to stop child abuse,” she added.
Throughout the month of April and into early May, donors can support Windwood’s work caring for abused boys and its community based abuse prevention programs by pledging to donate on May 3, Lowcountry Giving Day.
This community wide giving program encourages donations to a variety of local nonprofits. Last year, with a generous matching gift, Windwood raised $150,000 on Lowcountry Giving Day. To pledge a donation, visit lowcountrygivingday.com or http://text.gives/wwf.