BRISTOL, Va. — Each of the 267 blue pinwheels currently spinning on the front lawn of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Bristol and Washington County represents a child who has been a victim of abuse or neglect.

That is the number of child abuse cases reported in Bristol, Washington and Smyth counties between July 1, 2015, and July 30, 2016.

And the number of pinwheels in the annual display will likely increase next April. Already, there have been 250 victims reported so far this fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017.

The nonprofit organization, on Sugar Hollow Road in Bristol, Virginia, gives abused children a safe place to go for forensic interviews with investigators and for therapy.

This is the 10th year that the pinwheels have been placed in the yard, and each will stay through April, which is National Child Abuse Month, said Kathi Roark, program director for the organization.

“It’s very powerful to think that each one of these pinwheels that we’ve planted represents a new victim in our community,” Roark said. “Pinwheels are also very playful, and we feel like they also stand out as well from many of the other ribbon awareness campaigns out there, too.”

The pinwheel garden is also a good conversation starter, according to Roark, who said they don’t want people to become complacent and forget that child abuse is a growing problem.

“These aren’t just abstract numbers,” Roark said. “These are children and they represent my neighbors, your neighbors, the children that go to school in the community and 267 is just the number of reported cases. There are a lot of cases that go unreported and that is concerning.”

A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds across the country, according to Childhelp, a national nonprofit that aids victims of child abuse. Roark said locally, abuse is on the rise.

“It’s definitely a growing trend,” Roark said. “We are able to track the trends and have data from both Bristol and Washington County that goes back to 1998. The data does show that the number of cases has been slowly creeping up since 2013, especially child sexual abuse cases.”

Roark said it’s because of projects like planting the pinwheels that makes the community more aware of child abuse, and anything the community can do to help children grow up healthy is a smart investment.

“It’s so important to listen and be aware of certain situations,” Roark said. “Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call the abuse hotline number if you see something that isn’t right when it comes to a child. The job of the average citizen is to report that, and you can do it anonymously. Anything we can do to help children grow up healthy is a smart investment.” | 276-645-2567 | | Twitter: @ZachBHC

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