April 13, 2008 — Emotional abuse is the most prevalent form of child abuse on St. John, and it can rob children of their self-esteem, according to St. John Community Crisis Center Director Shelley Williams.
Williams and the center observed Child Abuse Prevention Day in Cruz Bay Park Saturday with some entertainment, arts and crafts for kids, and face painting. Twenty of the Love City Leapers jump rope team showed off their skills while volunteers and center staff gave out literature on child abuse.
Sharalyn Paris said she came out to see her daughter, Caliyah Stephenson, 7, and her cousin, LeNique Sprauve, 9, perform with the Love City Leapers. But child abuse, she said, was an important issue.
"A lot of parents don't give their children the amount of attention they need," she said.
The Community Crisis Center offers help for victims of child abuse and domestic violence. Program Coordinator Nancy P. Lewis said the agency plans to reopen its shelter in May. It closed two years ago.
"Without the shelter we can't support the services that are needed," Lewis said. She added that volunteers are needed for an April 26 cleanup at the shelter.
In Cruz Bay Park, Williams and Jason Snow, a physician's assistant at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, offered plenty of information about child abuse as a local and national problem.
Snow said across the country there are 2.5 million cases of child abuse every year. Fifty percent of those cases involve negligence, 35 percent are physical abuse and 15 percent are sexual abuse.
"One in four girls and one in eight boys are victims of sexual abuse before they're 18," he said.
And in most cases, children are abused by a family member or other relative who was also abused as a child, perpetuating a generational cycle of abuse.
Williams said that half of children who grow up in homes with domestic violence will get into relationships where they will be abused.
Anyone suspecting child abuse is urged to call the Human Services Department's intake service. The office is open 24 hours a day at 774-0930, extension 4264 or 4265, or to report abuse, call 911.
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