Advocates against child abuse rallied at the Winnebago County Justice Center on Monday afternoon with the message that child abuse must stop.
According to Children’s Home and Aid, a Rockford advocacy group, in Winnebago County alone there have been 1,500 reported cases over the past year.
The gathering at the Justice Center is an annual event, now in its 17th year, called “Hands Around the Courthouse.” Many of those who gathered carried blue pinwheels and blue shirts in support of Child Abuse Prevention month.
After some public remarks, the pinwheels were planted in front of the Justice Center while four young girls performed an interpretive dance inside.
Judge Rosemary Collins said, “It should show all of the children in our community that you’re not condemned to a certain life just because you had it tough as a child. There are people in the community who care about you.”
Earl Kloppmann, the program manager for the Care and Share program, said “The general public really is clueless about how prevalent this problem is within our community. So, we’re trying to bring it front-and-center on people’s radar.”
Judge Collins says the key to reducing the number of child abuse incidents is to be proactive, not reactive. “My goal has always been to prevent violence. We in the courts deal with the aftermath of violence, after it’s occurred. And that’s never enough. We have to stop violence before it happens, and that’s what we’re focused on.”
Clinical therapist Karen Schwitters, who specializes in parent-child relational issues, as well as childhood behavior, says abuse of a child at a young age can lead to a lifetime cycle of violence in that person.
“Trauma is inter-generational, so once…the child experiences that, they’re more likely to grow up and engage in that behavior, unless we intervene,” she said. “That’s why I think it’s even more important that we start early.”