Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office employees planted 1,000 pinwheels at the Tulsa County Courthouse on Thursday to bring awareness to child abuse.
District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said his office wanted to make a statement of their desire to end child abuse, and he said he hopes the pinwheels can bring the issue to the forefront of Tulsa County residents’ minds.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, child abuse and neglect cases reported in Oklahoma have declined, The Associated Press has reported. Kunzweiler said that because of that, now is an important time to bring awareness to this problem.
“When the pandemic hit, our sources of reporting — teachers, counselors, coaches, bus drivers, the folks who on a day-to-day basis it is drilled into their head to pay attention to these things — kind of got off the map because they couldn’t get out,” Kunzweiler said. “Of course children were stuck in these environments where we know from experience abuse has to be taking place.”
Kunzweiler said that because of their age and ability levels, these children may not be able to escape the abuse.
“The only way these kids are going to be protected is for all of us to step up and speak up,” he said.
“The sad part is, we’re hearing stories of, maybe in the past, it might have been a one- or two-moment incident, but now we’ve got kids who are subject to sexual abuse over a longer period of time,” he said. “The stories are really tragic and pretty shocking.”
He said this is why his office wanted to have the pinwheel planting event, to draw the public’s attention to the issue of child abuse.
“Our second-best resource (after children) for reporting is our citizenry,” Kunzweiler said. “You’re not doing anything wrong by reporting it. Let the experts do the investigating.”
Tulsa County Commissioner Stan Sallee attended the pinwheel planting event to offer his support and help raise awareness of child abuse.
“The Board of County Commissioners and all other Tulsa County elected officials fully support (Kunzweiler’s) effort to prosecute those who prey on our most victimized, innocent citizens,” Sallee said.
He said pinwheels have been planted across Tulsa County and that he hopes residents can remember what they stand for and how they can help.
Local social service agencies urge the public to visit LookOutReachOut.net for resources to help recognize, report and prevent child abuse and neglect, especially during the pandemic.
Anyone who suspects a child is being abused or neglected can report it by calling the Child Abuse Hotline at 800-522-3511.
Only on AP: Child abuse reports plunge in pandemic