Hearing there were 199 confirmed child abuse victims in Washington County feels uncomfortable. It is almost 10 classrooms full of children. It feels like a black mark against our beautiful community; like we somehow failed. It shatters the idyllic, Mayberry-like image some have of the Bartlesville area.
But, what made Mayberry a picturesque community? In the popular television series, it certainly wasn’t perfect situations or people. Single parents, heartbreak, blended families and even a town drunk were among some of the main characters. Mayberry’s charm came from the willingness of people to help others – such as the aunt who comes to live with the widower and helps him raise his young son. Kindness mattered. Helping neighbors mattered. Doing the right thing mattered.
If you frame our 199 children a little differently, you might even begin to feel hopeful. Those 199 children had an adult who cared enough to help; to stand up on a child’s behalf. Because of a neighbor, friend, teacher, doctor or coach, 199 children are now safe. They now have the food needed for healthy, growing bodies. They have a safe place to sleep, allowing them to go to school ready to learn. They have caregivers, who are better able to protect them, so they can grow up free from abuse.
The way we see it, our community has two choices. One, we can feel shame that child abuse occurs here and choose to ignore it – bury our heads and choose not to see it. Or two, we can speak up and report when we know something is wrong. We can offer help. While we alone may not be able to solve it, we can start the process toward that child’s healing.
We hope each of you chooses the second approach. To be beautiful and idyllic, our community does not have to be perfect. But just like Mayberry, kindness matters. Helping our neighbors matters. Doing the right thing matters. Speaking up for hurting children in your life matters.
Last year, we had 199 confirmed child abuse victims. Today, we have 199 child abuse survivors. Pulling those children out of the darkness of child abuse and shining hope into their future? It matters.
Data from 2016.