ERIE, Pa. — The Erie County Courthouse is aglow with blue lights, a symbol of the fight against child abuse.
During a Monday night ceremony, Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper proclaimed the month of April as Erie County Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Officials also recognized National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is observed during April.
“We hope that it reminds someone that if they know that there is a child that could potentially be in danger that they make the contact and make sure to help that child,” said Dahlkemper.
Chad Zaczyk was a part of a group of bikers who attended the event.
He said, “It’s one of those subjects a lot of people don’t want to talk about, and you hear the numbers are very staggering.”
There are more than 1,000 reports of child abuse in Erie County every year, according to the Crime Victim Center of Erie County.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports around 700,000 confirmed cases annually.
“Child abuse is actually pretty close to me,” said Zaczyk, president of Riders Advocating Against Child Abuse. “A lot of my family members went through it when they were younger.”
Studies show that most victimized children know their abusers.
Professionals recommend that parents maintain open dialogue with their children.
“Children oftentimes don’t talk about those things, because they’re afraid even to tell their parents,” explained Michael Gaines, executive director of the Bradley H. Foulk Children’s Advocacy Center of Erie County. “So, the key thing with any parent is to keep an open relationship with their child where they feel they can tell them anything.”
Zaczyk added, “We need to give a voice for the innocent, the children that are being abused or have been abused.”
To report suspected abuse, call Pennsylvania’s ChildLine at 800-932-0313 or the Erie County Office of Children and Youth at 814-451-6600.