With blue balloons ready to be released, around 30 people attended the second annual Child Abuse Awareness Walk, held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery.

The day included the walk, refreshments, and Newton County judges Tim Perigo and Kevin Selby saying some words to the walkers.

“Missouri has seen a 7 percent increase in report of abuse and neglect cases recently,” said Selby in his opening remarks. “But that is a troubling number to me. It means that we are not dealing with awareness on a level that we need to be dealing with it. I can tell you that I am very pleased with our judicial system and our juvenile system courtrooms works that we are doing once we have a child in care.”

Selby thanked those in attendance for their work.

“We have helped a lot of families, we have protected a lot of children, and we have been successful in returning them to a home that was before dysfunctional and now is healthy,” he said. “And you all deserve a round of applause for that.”
Selby then talked about the troubling news with child abuse.

“Victims in their first year of life have the highest rate of victimization,” he said. “It is good that we are doing these types of events to raise awareness, but we have voices, they do not. And awareness will never be affective until that voiceless child is given a voice.”

He presented statistics dealing with child abuse.

“Boys account for 48.7 percent and girls account for 50.9 percent of victimization,” Selby said. “One of the most common types of maltreatment abuse. Nationally, 75 percent are neglect. I was surprised by that. And 15 percent suffer physical abuse, 20 percent suffer sexual abuse. I expected those numbers to be quite different and the reason I expected them to be quite different, is because ours are and they are not good.

“Compared to the national [statistics], physical abuse is 30 percent for our circuit, sexual abuse is 22 percent, and neglect is 57 percent,” he said. “So what does that tell us? It is something that we don’t want to talk about, but we need to speak the truth and the truth is that in this community, we physically abuse our children more and we sexually abuse them more. And that is an ugly truth. And I want our focus to be dealing with ‘why,’ answering the ‘why question.’ And how do we educate the individuals who are in charge of these folks, these children, so that we can be more in line with national rates. I would love to see in a five year term we would be able to return here and say, ‘we are lower than the national rate, we are no longer sexually abusing our children more than the nation. We are no longer physically abusing our children more than the nation.”

Selby also mentioned that of the 49 states that reported in 2012, a total of 1,593 children were killed.

“When they extrapolate that out using the total states, they believe that the estimate is 1,640 children,” he added. “Nearly three-quarters of those children were younger than 3 years old. The most helpless, defenseless citizen in our community is the one that ends up deceased. Boys had a higher fatality than the girls by a significant margin. Four-fifths of these children’s death was caused by one or both parents.”

He also mentioned about there were 62,000 hotline calls in the state of Missouri.

“For the state, we had 4,370 sustained hotline calls. I was surprised by that,” Selby said. “I was expecting a larger number.  There were 4,512 unsubstantiated but services were provided. So out of the 62,000 phone calls saying ‘this child is being harmed,’ the state determined that more than 8,000 needed assistance, some needed to be removed, and some just needed services in the home.”

Prior to Selby’s speech, Sandy Hughes, president of Friends of Newton and McDonald Counties Department of Social Services, presented the Denice Butler Award. Butler worked in the Newton County office for many years. This year, the award went to Angela Bridges, an investigator with DSS.

“I am extremely honored,” said Bridges.