While it might be a bit frustrating to explain, Judy Donze doesn’t seem to mind — so long as a conversation is generated.
    “It at least causes people to ask what it’s about,” she said regarding the blue pinwheels that get set up annually every April for National Child Abuse Awareness Month. “Some people always say to me, ‘What are those pinwheels all about?’ They think it’s just a spring display or something, but I think even just asking the question goes a long way into recognizing a problem, and eventually understanding it.”
    The month and pinwheels are used to bring awareness to the prevalence of child abuse in our country and our communities, Donze noted. In Livingston, as well as McLean and DeWitt counties, Children’s Advocacy Centers provide children with a safe place to share their stories in their own words, to experts who will listen to them, protect them, and help them heal, the Child Protection Network noted in a release about the pinwheels.
    Donze, who serves on the local CPN board, noted that the issue and prevalence of child abuse was advocated for in Livingston County on April 6, when Pontiac Township High School students in law enforcement and child care classes placed 481 blue pinwheels around the Historic Courthouse, each representing a child referred to the Livingston, McLean and DeWitt CACs for a forensic interview.
    A similar event was held earlier on April 2 in Bloomington with 481 pinwheels at the McLean County History Museum in Bloomington and the Children’s Discovery Museum in Normal on Monday.
    Donze said that the number of pinwheels was trending up — 418 total in 2017, which was up from 356 the year prior. As to the engine behind the trend, Donze said it was difficult to say why the numbers were heading in what a reasonable person would assume was the wrong direction.
    But she wished, at least, that the continued advocacy of the CAC and CPN was simply exposing ugly truths by bringing awareness to the problem.
    “You would hope that it only means that more reporting is being done and, as a result of reporting being done, more children are being removed from dangerous situations,” Donze said, noting one silver lining of the trend was also an increase in the number of cases being prosecuted: in 2017, the CPN noted that 17 perpetrators were charged with child-related crimes.
    “Our hope of doing this is just to remind people that child abuse happens,” Donze continued. “It happens in all communities, it happens in all economic statuses, in all different kinds of families. We need to empower kids to share their story and be believed.
    “We wish it didn’t happen, but we can’t ignore it either, and we need to be there to protect our kids and create awareness for a pervasive problem. That’s really the main focus of April awareness, to remind people that this is a tragic reality of life and that we need to listen and be aware.”