“I just want it to stop.”

“It” is child abuse or neglect, and when Social Workers talk with child victims, this is a statement most often heard from them. Children love their parents and caretakers. Children want their caretakers to behave like parents and guardians, who love and cherish them—they want their caretakers to behave like parents they see on television. And children want to be with their families. They just want the abuse or the neglect to stop.

In Virginia, over 35,000 reports of child maltreatment were received in 2012. Locally, Westmoreland County Department of Social Services took 338 abuse or neglect reports and accepted 265 for follow up. Given that referrals often involve multiple children that equates to over 10 percent of the county’s population of persons under the age of 18, who were either suspected victims or actual victims of maltreatment last year.

Abuse in the first 18 years of life can result in lifelong negative effects such as alcohol or drug use, criminal activity, depression, or domestic violence. Worse yet, the cycle of maltreatment can continue for a lifetime. Abuse and/or neglect does not just happen to the poor or uneducated, it spans all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

How can you help “make it stop?” You can help raise awareness of the issue. You can be willing to talk about the subject to your children, your neighbors, or your community organizations.  You can recognize that child abuse and neglect happens, even in Westmoreland County. You can report suspicions or concerns that you see.

Specifically, you can volunteer to help a family who is overwhelmed or struggling. You can listen to a child if they try to tell you something is going on. You can educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of child abuse or neglect.

If you are a parent, you can take time every day to talk to your children. You can take “time outs” to calm yourself if you are feeling overwhelmed. You can recognize good behavior in your child rather than focus on the negative. You can reach out and ask for help.

Together we can all help “make it stop.” Realize, Recognize, and Reach Out!

For more information on child abuse or neglect or for awareness and education programs, or to make a report of suspected abuse or neglect contact Westmoreland County Department of Social Services at 804-493-9305.

Elizabeth Bowen, SW

Social Worker

Westmoreland County Dept. of Social Services

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