In St. Charles County, 181 children in were abused and neglected last year. Those were the reported cases. At least one study has found that one in four children suffer some form of abuse or neglect in their lifetimes.
And now, St. Charles County law enforcement officials say they need the public's help in reporting the crime. "It's critical to remember that vulnerable children need advocates to keep them safe and protected," St. Charles County Police Chief David Todd said at a news conference on Tuesday. "Otherwise many cases will go unreported. We don't want that, we don't need that."
Todd and other county officials on Tuesday honored the 181 children that were victims of abuse or neglect in 2016 with a "pinwheel garden" in front of the St. Charles County Executive Office Building. There is a pinwheel for each child. It will remain there for a week.
Todd says in a majority of those cases the abuser was not a stranger.
"They knew them and they trusted this individual, whether it was a relative or a family member or a close friend of the family. The children were victims of someone they trusted and the family trusted them also," said Todd.
Amanda Moore is the mother of two children who were abused by a relative. She spoke at the event Tuesday and said it is important to listen to children and give them enough comfort to tell their story.
"They needed help, they needed justice and the first step is 'Yes, I believe you' and 'yes, we're gonna fix this,'" Moore said.
She stressed that when in doubt, people should call the police and let them investigate the possible abuse or neglect.
The number of abused and neglected children in St. Charles County was down last year from 263 cases in 2015. But Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said it's still too many.
"We've got more work to do. Our efforts make a difference but we have more work to do."
Also appearing at Tuesday's press conference were three service dogs that offer comfort support and investigative services for child victims of abuse.