Shocking Stats of Local Child Abuse
Reporter: James Gherardi l Videographer: Levi Washburn
Lynchburg, VA - Incidents like the one in Roanoke are not as uncommon as they may seem. Child abuse, no matter how severe, is a continuing problem in Virginia, especially in Lynchburg.
The message from those who work in child abuse prevention is simple: Speak up. If you see something, anything, that raises suspicions, report it. Because keeping quiet may prove to be the worst decision of all.
She was only 13 months old. Veralee Craft couldn't even utter a word.
"I never thought this would happen to me. You always hear stories about it but you never think it's going to happen to you," said her father Jonathan Craft.
And now sadly, she never will.
"We can, 'What if?' ourselves to death over lots of things. But when it comes to the kids, they just don't have anybody to speak for them," said Eugene Wingfield of the Lynchburg Exchange Club.
Wingfield, also a veteran police officer, helped organize the club's child abuse flag memorial last year. A flag denoting each state, each state marked with the number of child abuse related deaths in 2011. It was an event he won't soon forget, one that left a lasting message.
"We want people to know that it is a lot of this out there and that, please do something, report what you see," he said.
"Infants that are found with socks stuffed down their throat. You know, we've had children with cigarette burns. We've absolutely had cases of sexual abuse," said Jane Francis, the executive director of CASA, an organization designed to place court appointed observers in the homes of abuse victims.
Francis says locally, the problem is out of control.
In Virginia, 3.3 children of every 1,000 were victims of abuse. In Lynchburg, that number was more than seven.
In 2011 there were 489 reported abuse cases in Lynchburg, Bedford and the surrounding counties; one death in Lynchburg, a four month old baby girl.
"A child cannot most of the time stand up for themselves. I mean, they're up against a parent or an adult, and they're going to lose that battle every single time," said Wingfield.
Both Wingfield and Francis said the abuse no matter how small or severe must be reported. They both agreed situations like the one in Roanoke could have easily been avoided.
You can get more information about child services in Lynchburg here.