This April marks the 33rd anniversary of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is a time dedicated to child abuse education, awareness and prevention.
The issue, which is in the media every day causes one to shiver at the thought of what happens to our children, yet it is the most ignored issue because it's so ugly.
Well it's even uglier for the children who are being abused.
Just this week, a foster parent on Long Island was accused of sexually abusing the kids in his care. A 17-count indictment earlier this month alleges that 59-year-old Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu sexually abused seven foster boys in his care and even had sex with his dog. Now investigators suspect there are far more victims. Gonzales-Mugaburu fostered some 140 boys there over 20 years.
Social worker Debi Edwards had alerted the authorities about this, but nobody would listen. And that's not too uncommon either.
Full disclosure: As the founder and CEO of Love Our Children USA, I have seen this happen time too often.
Just last month, the movie Spotlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture along with Best Original Screenplay. For those of you who haven't seen it, the film follows The Boston Globe's "Spotlight" team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the country and its actual investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests.
According to fellow child abuse expert Roger Canaff, "The newest miserable chapter of the Roman Catholic clergy abuse crisis has come to light. A particular diocese- Altoona-Johnstown, in southwest Pennsylvania has been revealed as shrouded in darkness for decades, with predictably abysmal results. We don't know this because the Church took it upon itself to publish a candid and self-reflective report. Instead, we know it because of a civil grand jury armed with a search warrant. Last week, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office released the deeply disturbing report of that investigative body, detailing the sexual abuse of children at the hands of mostly diocesan priests (priests who serve within a geographical area). In many cases, either written admissions of predatory priests were uncovered, or the men made admissions before the grand jury itself."
Just ten days ago, a Glen Rose, Texas mother, Tasha Shontell Hatcher put her 2-year-old child in the oven.
And no one will ever forget the names of Nixmary Brown, Elizabeth Steinberg or Elisa Izquierdo all famous child abuse murders in New York.
These are only a handful of the horrifying stories
And these stories should serve as a wake-up call to America. We can no longer ignore these abominable acts of children being harmed and murdered at the hands of the adults who are supposed to be protecting them.
Every day 5 children are killed due to child abuse. Over 3 million children are victims of some form of child abuse but because the abuse is so grossly under-reported the actual number of child victims is three times greater.
It's time to pay attention! We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and not believe it or not want to get involved.
This April everyone is urged to raise awareness for child abuse prevention by wearing a blue ribbon to honor these innocent children. Take this national call to action, help prevent child abuse, assist families in achieving positive parenting practices through education and resources, empower individuals to report the abuse and intervene in situations where violence and neglect hurt children.
We must educate and re-educate parents helping to create positive parenting practices before the abuse starts. By wearing a blue ribbon, we can create a national awareness so that not just parents understand the importance of positive parenting, but the public does as well.
National Child Abuse Prevention Month is our collective responsibility to protect America's children and strengthen America's families. We must work together to break the cycle.
Ross Ellis is a national child abuse, parenting, anti-bullying and violence prevention expert and is the founder and CEO of both Love Our Children USA and STOMP Out Bullying.