It is difficult for me to write this letter. In fact, it hurts. April is Child Abuse Awareness Month. I will never understand how a person can abuse a child in any form or fashion. Whether it's sexually, physically or verbally, it's so hard to comprehend.
Children in this county, in this country and throughout the world are being abused on a daily basis. In Jefferson County, we have arrested hundreds of individuals for sexually abusing children, the youngest being 18 months old.
We taught our children when growing up to be always aware of strangers who may want to hurt them. Of the hundreds of individuals we have arrested for sexually abusing our children, not one, I repeat, not one, was a stranger. The low-life offender was always someone the child knew - dad, step-dad, uncle, brother, mom, step-mom, mom's boyfriend, preachers, teachers, grandpap, step-grandpap, etc. These children were hurt by someone they knew and trusted, someone they loved.
It breaks my heart every time a child tells us how they were hurt and what the low-life did to them. We have had children beaten, with bruises and marks from head to toe. I have made trips to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh when children from Jefferson County were there with fractured skulls, children 2 and 3 years old in critical condition because someone beat them. Don't forget beautiful baby Leah who was beaten by her mom's boyfriend and still suffers impairments.
Yes, we have had children in Jefferson County murdered, children who were beaten to death, shot to death and one little girl who was brought to Jefferson County, thrown along a county road in Brooke County and our investigation revealed the 7-year-old girl was starved to death. The child weighed 11 pounds, 7 ounces.
These are all heartbreaking cases. My prayers always include asking God to reach out and touch the children of the world who suffer from all the abuse.
Not just one month of the year should recognize child abuse awareness, but every month, and every day of every year should raise awareness of what is happening to our children. People must get involved. If you suspect child abuse, you must report it. You do not have to give your name when reporting abuse.
The main thing is to report it. Myself, along with Lt. Susan Bell of the sheriff's department and Betty Ferron of the Department of Jobs and Family Services, Children Services Division, and her staff will continue to go after the low-lifes who prey on our children. We need your help.
Get involved in bringing sex offenders to justice. Report any type of child abuse, which includes children living in filthy conditions. The crimes against children and people arrested that I referred to in this letter are sheriff's cases only. It does not include information from police agencies from throughout the county who also have arrested individuals for hurting our children.
In closing, I say to you, if you suspect child abuse in any form, report it. If you turn your head and say, well, that's not my problem, then you are just as guilty as the abuser. It shouldn't hurt to be a child. Report child abuse. God bless and watch over our children.
(Abdalla is the Jefferson County sheriff.)