EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KMOX) - Walk into the lobby of the Madison County government building and the first thing you’ll notice are the paper cutouts — blue for boys, pink for girls — hanging from the walls, the stairwells, and nearly every other available surface.
There are 490 in all, and each represents one of the children interviewed at the Madison County Child Advocacy Center over the past year.
On each cutout is a number representing the age of the child interviewed, and they go all the way down to just one year old.
During an event to kick off April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month Stephen Wigginton, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, called the Internet a “highway for perversion” where pornographers post stills and video of young children being subjected to the worst kinds of abuse imaginable.
“Bondage, sadism, torture,” Wigginton said. “What we see more and more is that it’s per-pubescent. The images include children as young as one and two years old, being sexually brutalized.”
He calls the catch-all phrase for explicit online material such as this — “production of child pornography” — too tame, too “vanilla”.
“What we’re really saying is child rape, caught on tape,” insisted Wigginton.
Education and awareness are the first steps toward putting an end to all forms of child abuse, officials said.
“The kick-off event for Child Abuse Prevention Month is a great opportunity to highlight ways in which we can come together to make Madison County safer for our children,” said State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons. “We must do everything we can to make child abuse prevention a priority. By educating our community about the types of abuse and when to report it, we can reduce the risk of the abuse and neglect of our children.”
According to information provided by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, child abuse and neglect affected more than 100,000 alleged victims and led to 90 child deaths in Fiscal Year 2012.
State’s Attorney Gibbons said the effects of suffering abuse at a young age are long-lasting, and can even be passed down through generations as victimized children turn into adults who abuse.
And, he said, it goes beyond the ability of law enforcers to fix by prosecuting abusive adults.
“Even after a tough jail sentence, it doesn’t mean that our victims have found peace,” Gibbons explained. “It simply means that our work is beginning and will continue for the rest of their lives.”
More information about Prevent Child Abuse Illinois and Child Abuse Prevention Month can be found at www.preventchildabuseillinois.org.