483 Children Affected by Abuse and Neglect

Tuesday, hundreds of adults and children gathered at the County Courthouse for a moving visual representation of the issue of child abuse and neglect in Tom Green County. Four hundred eighty-three, that's the number of pinwheels placed this year, representing the number of children affected in 2013.

"We stand up against child abuse."

First grader, Griffin Thornton, joins millions around the nation observing National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Griffin may not understand the severity of the incidents quite yet, but she knows the solution.

"Your family has to get healthy, because you're a healthy family," said Thornton.

Yes, Griffin's right. A healthy family is key to preventing child abuse and neglect.

"It's one of those, you want to educate without scaring them. We don't want to bring too much negative into their happy world. We don't want to bust their bubble, but at the same time we want to tell them to appreciate what they have and to know that there's help if they're ever in a bad situation," said San Angelo Christian Academy Administrator, Jennifer Rackley.

Last year, more than 66,000 cases of child abuse or neglect were reported in Texas; that's a child every eight minutes.

Chief of Police, Tim Vasquez, says calls regarding child abuse are difficult to respond to.

"We try not to traumatize the victim anymore than they've already been traumatized," Vasquez said.

Like many parents, Vasquez has a tough time grasping the idea of his daughter being abused.

"I love kids and when I think about their development and them being our future, you look at them [and realize] they're just so innocent. Even today they don't know what they want to be, but we as society and as a community need to give them every opportunity to be successful and happy, and normal," Vasquez said.

In Tom Green County, child abuse or neglect increased by over 50 cases from 2012.

Each pinwheel represents a child. A child abused or neglected in Tom Green County last year. Four hundred eighty-three are displayed along the lawn of the County Courthouse commemorating Child Abuse Awareness Month.

The Children's Advocacy Center offers four programs including the Hope House and the Family Enrichment Services to help secure a safe and nurturing home for local children.

"It breaks your heart to know that there are individuals that aren't caring for their children, but it makes me so happy that there's systems in place that help those," Rackley said.

Child abuse is a preventable crime. Stand up for someone that can't stand up for themselves.

This Sunday at Kirby Park, the Children's Advocacy Center will host "Picnic in the Park" from 2:00-4:00 p.m. It's a free event to promote healthy and nurturing families.

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