The blue ribbons symbolize the bruises children suffer from their abusers
In 2008, there were 64 reported instances of child abuse in Crook County, however according to research by the Childhelp Foundation, the rate of child abuse is estimated to be three times greater than reported.
In order to bring awareness to this often-silent problem, The KIDS Center (Kids Intervention and Diagnostic Service) will be holding its annual "Blue Ribbon Campaign" in April in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"Many children don't know that they don't have to be subjected to this," said Gail Schmutz, outreach coordinator with the KIDS Center. "They don't know that there are options out there and that people are there to help them to begin the healing process and not be a victim of the abuse."
According to Schmutz, one in four girls is sexually abused before the age of 18, and one in six boys suffers abuse before that age.
"It has been identified by the National Health Center as their number-one health issue because children who are abused have significant health issues throughout their life," she said.
The KIDS center was established in 1990 as a place for abused children to begin the healing process. The center served more than 700 children in the tri-county area last year and now has a satellite office in Prineville.
The Blue Ribbon Campaign was originally started in 1989 by a grandmother whose grandson died at the hands of his mother's abusive partner. She tied a blue ribbon to her car antennae to symbolize the bruises suffered by her grandson.
"She recognized that there needed to be more awareness so children would not have to suffer through that," Schmutz said. "Since that time, April has always been Child Abuse Prevention Month."
The KIDS Center Crook County office has a number of events planned for Prineville during the month of April and residents are encouraged to wear blue ribbons, which can be found at many local businesses, to show their support.
On April 11 and 18, the Pine Theater will show free movies for all Crook County children. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the movies will start at 10 p.m. According to Schmutz, the April 11 movie is "Open Season 2" and the April 18 movie is "Bolt." The purpose, she says, is to provide a safe place where kids can watch a free movie.
On April 16, the Pine Theater will host a spring fashion show titled "Clothes Down Child Abuse," which kicks off at 5:30 p.m. The fashion show is sponsored by Shop Hair and participants include Bella Boutique, Giddy Up, Riches and Rags Quilt Shack, Prineville Men's Wear and Nikki's. Tickets are $5 and proceeds benefit the KIDS Center.
"We'll be showing the latest spring fashions and there will be several good raffle prizes," Schmutz said. "It's an evening of coming together and enjoying fashion with the proceeds going to the KIDS Center."
There will also be a free Darkness to Light training session at the Crook County Library on April 29 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Darkness to Light is a prevention program that teaches adults the seven steps to protect children from sexual abuse.
"It's a very in-depth training on what adults need to do to be proactive to protect children from sexual abuse," Schmutz said.