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July 7, 2020
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Cotati memorializes victims

By: Joshua Farestveit-Moore
April 12, 2019

The Cotati City Council joined the rest of Sonoma County Tues. evening in proclaiming April 2019 as Children’s Memorial Flag Day in memory of children that have died through violence. 

This wasn’t the first year that Cotati has designated April as Children’s Memorial Flag Day, but this one couldn’t have come at a better time. The American Society for the Positive Care of Children (SPCC) estimated that in 2017 alone 3.2 million kids in America required medical treatment or therapy to recover from abuse. It’s quite a hefty number, but it doesn’t even include the 1,720 who died in 2017. 

That’s five kids a day. For them, help came too late. 

“A child is never crying to irritate you,” Vice Mayor Wendy Skillman said. “A lot of it involves reaching out to a parent when you see them getting to that breaking point. (...) When I’m at Target or the grocery store I see a parent that’s right on the edge, I’ll go up and say, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ Just checking in. It’s about letting them know that, yeah, we’ve been there.”

Abuse leaves wounds invisible to the naked eye. Children of abusive parents are more likely to suffer addiction to drugs and alcohol, experience teen pregnancy and are incarcerated at nine times the national average. If the crime is seriousness enough, a criminal record can follow a person throughout their entire life, making it harder to find a job or become a fully functional member of society. The National Institute of Justice found that 76.6 percent of inmates were arrested again within five years of release.  

And the effects of child abuse don’t end when the kid grows up. Abuse creates a cycle of violence, flowing from one generation to the next; 30 percent of abused children will grow up to harm their own kids, according to the SPCC. 

“It’s about educating the public that this does happen and it could happen anywhere,” Mayor John Dell’Osso said. “By educating people I would hope that people would have this awareness that if they feel they’re going in that direction, or they see someone who might, then they would stop and just think about what would happen. How many lives could they ruin with one awful act?”

So how does a city prevent child abuse? Well, awareness is the first step, according the World Health Organization. As long as a community is aware that a problem exists then it won’t normalize it, tacitly condoning violence. That’s where the Children’s Memorial Flag Day comes into effect. It brings the problem to the fore and helps the community identify hot spots for violence and address the cause. 

People who are interested in learning more, or are just looking for ways to help, should contact the SPCC at: https://americanspcc.org/.