Raising awareness

Woodstock Police Lt. Aaron Patti helps Carson Clark, 4, plant a pinwheel in front of the Shenandoah County Circuit Courthouse on Thursday morning. The pinwheel garden was planted to raise awareness for child abuse prevention. Photo by Henry Culvyhouse

WOODSTOCK — A pinwheel garden is spinning in front of the Shenandoah County Circuit Courthouse to raise awareness for child abuse prevention.

More than 30 people, including parents, students from the Presbyterian Preschool in Woodstock, members of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, the Woodstock Police Department and Response, a local resource center for domestic violence victims, gathered Thursday to plant the pinwheel garden to mark Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is in April.

Sabrina Shirkey, the children and youth services coordinator for Response, said domestic violence, particularly child abuse, is a problem facing all communities.

“It’s important to know that this is a problem we find in all communities around the country,” she said. “The pinwheel, being a symbol of child abuse prevention, is a way to raise awareness with the public.”

Response provides educational resources, shelter and advocates for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. Shirkey said while the children might be a little young to understand the horrors of abuse, it’s great to include them where appropriate.

“I think it’s very important to get the children involved and out there doing something for the community,” she said. “They have fun doing it and they help bring attention to an issue that is coming to light more and more every day.”

Stephanie Dysart, a teacher at the preschool, said it was the first time her class has participated in the event.

“They’re a little young, but it’s an opportunity for them to do something in the community,” she said.

Woodstock Police Chief Eric Reilly said building awareness around child abuse helps law enforcement get them the help they need.

“Law enforcement is mandated by the law to provide resources for victims of domestic violence and often those victims are children,” he said. “I think child abuse is an under-discussed topic and bringing awareness to it will help build understanding for people.”

Reilly added, “We don’t want victims, especially children, to think that the violence is their fault. We work with Response to help break the cycle of violence.”

Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter said that after running some statistics, he believes after combining all the calls to law enforcement agencies in the county, about “1.6 calls per day relate to some kind of domestic violence issue.”

“That can range from custody disputes to simple assaults to something very serious,” he said. “Sometimes victims press charges, sometimes they don’t.”

Carter said planting the pinwheel garden not only helps build awareness about child abuse in the area, it also helps build relationships with the youth of the community.

“Any good community policing means maintaining a good relationship with the community’s children,” he said. “Having this event helps build that relationship.”

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com