ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOX) – One hundred eighty-one blue and silver pinwheels now spin in front of the St. Charles County Executive office building, after a dedication this morning honoring the victims of child abuse and neglect. That’s one pinwheel for each confirmed victim in 2016, and it’s 82 fewer than were placed there last year.
“I think we’ve got some demonstrated results of how the efforts over the last few years have really changed things in our community,” says County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar. “The first thing that comes to mind is that’s an improvement over years past. It also makes you wonder how many are unreported.”
Lohmar says child abuse cases are among the toughest to prosecute, because you often don’t have a third-party witness.
“You’ve got the word of the victim and in a large majority of these cases, you’ve got young, young kids.” And it’s difficult, Lohmar says, for them to understand what they’ve been through and then to have to explain that over and over again throughout the legal process.
To help overcome those obstacles, Lohmar says, they’ve begun using innovative tactics, including dogs.
“I have one in my office. The police department has one and the child center, our interviewing arm, also has a dog.”
Lohmar says the dogs give the kids something else to focus on, and provides some joy in an otherwise terrible situation.
He says the kids will sometimes tell the dog what they won’t tell a person.
“A lot of times, we’ll say, ‘We need you to tell your story today. So, would you like to talk to me about it?’ They may not answer so we’ll say, ‘Would you like to tell the dog the story?’ They’ll say, ‘OK’ and they will.”
One of those dogs helped Amanda Moore’s daughters tell their stories after they were abused by a cousin.
Moore says the most important thing for a parent to do is to believe their child.
“This was happening to my daughter over the course of a year and so, when she finally said something it was, ‘I’m telling you this because I need your help.’ So, if you don’t believe them, it’s going to continue, and they’re going to continue hurting.”
Moore says parents also have to be aware of any personality changes, which could indicate their child is being abused.
“I can go back and I can say I know when something happened because my daughter would act out,” she says. “She was never a temper-tantrum child, and all of a sudden she would start doing temper tantrums.”
Moore says if you suspect your child has been abused, or if they tell you they have, call the police right away.
“But, get yourself together, because you do have to be that brave one for your kids.”