MANTI—The steps of the Sanpete County Courthouse were lined with children’s shoes on Monday, April 11 as part of the kick-off for Child Abuse Awareness Month in April.
The 151 pairs of shoes represented child abuse victims in Sanpete County over the past two years, said Janet Johnson, chairwoman of the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center (CJC) of Sanpete County, which sponsored the event.
Utah Sen. Derrin Owens of Fountain Green spoke at the gathering, which was moved from in front of the courthouse to the lobby of the building because of high winds.
Other speakers included Luann Greenwell, director of the Children’s Justice Center. She talked about a child who was beaten to death in 1989 and the cruelty of the beating.
Joanne Otten of Manti, who was instrumental in getting Miley’s Law passed, spoke about her granddaughter, named Miley, who suffered long-term brain damage after being the victim of shaken baby syndrome. The perpetrator was a family member who was convicted of child abuse.
Miley’s Law, passed by the Utah Legislature, requires the state to maintain a registry of child abusers and make the list public.
If a teacher, principal, neighbor or other person in the community recognizes the signs of abuse, they should simply report it to the Children’s Justice Center or the Division of Child and Family Services. “It is not their job to ask questions to a child about the details of the abuse,” Johnson said.
Selected law enforcement officers are specially trained to interview children about what happened to them. The interviews are videotaped so the children only need to give the information once in a safe and neutral environment. The videotapes and statements made in the videotapes can be the basis for prosecution of the perpetrators.
Just because someone reports signs of abuse doesn’t automatically mean that abuse occurred, and the Children’s Justice Center keeps that in mind to protect family members, Johnson said.
The Children’s Justice Center works with children from infancy to age 18.