WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — In an effort by the Luzerne County Child Advocacy Center, pinwheels and silhouettes of children were placed on the lawn of the Luzerne County Courthouse by employees, law enforcement officials, and members of the district attorney's office ahead of Child Abuse Awareness Month.
The Luzerne County CAC works with these officials to make it easier for children to report and testify against their abusers.
"The Children's Advocacy Center is a place where all these professionals get together. They have a closed-caption television so that lawyers, law enforcement, mental health professionals, medical professionals can watch the interview and assess what the child might need," said Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce.
There are 500 pinwheels across the courthouse lawn, the same number of children helped by the advocacy center in 2021.
Law enforcement tells Newswatch 16 this is also the number of suspected child abuse cases reported so far in 2022.
"In March alone, up to this date, we have 176 cases reports of child either sexual or physical abuse. Sometimes it's both. In February, the number was 219. And to date, that total of Childline reports, which is where professionals encounter children, that they have reasonable cause to believe, have suffered from abuse. We're up to nearly 500 at this point in the year," Sanguedolce said.
That is more than double the numbers officials in Luzerne County saw before the pandemic.
"This year, we've been inundated with cases, unfortunately, and victims coming through and disclosing abuse. So we're extremely happy that people are disclosing, but next year there will be more pinwheels on this lawn, unfortunately, because child abuse is happening in our county and in our community," said executive director Shannon Peduto.
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