Make it disappear

Awareness event in FD focuses on child abuse

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Fort Dodge Middle School fifth-grade science and social studies teacher Breah Ewing reacts as magician Larry Dunbar, of Fort Dodge, cuts her in half during his act. Assistant Alex Kocher, at left, lends a hand. The show was a fun event held at the school Thursday to draw attention to April being Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Before he began his magic show at the Fort Dodge Middle School Thursday morning, magician Larry Dunbar, of Fort Dodge, had an important message to share with the students and staff.

A message about an issue that even the best sleight of hand can’t make disappear: child abuse.

He was standing in for Sarah Cain, president of the Webster County Family Development Council and a counselor at Families First Counseling Services.

“There’s too many child abuse cases,” Dunbar said. “They’re out there doing things and she couldn’t be here today.”

He offered a glimpse of what life for an abused child might be like.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Pinwheels line the sidewalk at Cooper Elementary School Thursday morning to serve as a reminder of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“Imagine when you get home tonight and not being able to eat. Imagine being hit. Imagine there are drugs there. Imagine that nobody cares you’re there.”

His message, and the magic show that followed, were to help raise awareness of the issue.

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month. Each school in the Fort Dodge Community School District, as well at St. Edmond Catholic Schools and St. Paul Lutheran School, held events.

Those places also had rows of blue pinwheels set in the grass along their entrances. The spinning fans served as a reminder of the issue for students, staff and visitors to the buildings.

Cain said earlier that her group is doing several things to help students.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Magician Michael Mericle, of Fort Dodge, gets a little help with a giant card trick from Fort Dodge Middle School fifth-grader Mackenzie McIlrath, 11 during his act Thursday morning. The magic show was a fun event held to call attention to National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“We’re providing DART bus tokens for students in the winter months,” she said.

In addition, there’s something for them sooner.

“We have a Summer Scholarship Program that provides passes to Fort Frenzy.”

Child abuse cases are widespread in Iowa, and that includes Webster County.

According to information from the Iowa Department of Human Services, in 2015 Webster County authorities accepted 370 reports. Of those, 123 were family assessments and 247 were child abuse assessments. Of those 370 reports, 78 were confirmed or founded.

According to the data, 102 children were abused, which is the equivalent of 12.87 per 1,000.

Webster County ranked 30th in cases in Iowa during 2015.

Dunbar encouraged his audience to get help if one of them, or a friend, is possibly being abused.

“Tell a trusted adult,” he said. “That can be your teacher, your counselor, even a police officer.”

In Iowa, according to Cain, child abuse is defined as a failure to provide adequate food, clothing or other care necessary for a child’s health and well being. But it also is defined by intended physical injury, sexual abuse, presence of an illegal drug in the child’s body as a result of actions or neglect, allowing a known sex offender access to the child, manufacturing a dangerous substance in the child’s presence, mental injury, providing access to or showing obscene material to a child or sex trafficking a child.

She also shared a list of possible symptoms that may indicate abuse.

They include withdrawal from friends or activities, changes in behavior or school performance, depression, anxiety or unusual fears or sudden loss of confidence, lack of apparent supervision, frequent school absences, reluctance to leave school activities, attempts to run away, rebellious or defiant behavior or even suicide attempts.

Other signs of abuse can include injuries that can’t be explained or injuries where the explanation doesn’t fit the injury or untreated medical or dental problems.

To report suspected abuse, the Iowa Department of Human Services can be reached at (800) 362-2178. Callers can remain anonymous.