April 6: Juneau Empire on preventing child abuse:

Posted: Monday, April 10, 2000

During the past decade, child abuse in the state of Alaska has risen 106 percent.

That's one of those staggering numbers that makes you wonder what is wrong with society.

What's more, the fact that we have one of the highest child abuse rates in the country is a sad commentary for the Great Land. Somehow the word ''great'' just doesn't seem to play.

It's a plague on our society and is not limited to any one area of the state. In Southeast alone, the local Division of Family and Youth Services gets 70- to 80 calls about abuse every month. Statewide, DFYS received 7,876 calls in fiscal 1989. That number jumped to 16,294 in 1999.

Despite those sobering numbers, not all Alaskans are taking this lying down. Child advocate Debra Gerrish has ordered 25,000 mint green ribbon pins this year to help raise awareness about the problem during this month's Child Abuse Awareness Month. She's part of a grassroots organization, which includes others from Juneau, who are out to make change.

''Of course, the pin is just the come on,'' Gerrish said in a recent interview with the Empire. ''It gets people talking. It gets them to pick up the pamphlet and look at additional information.''

Child abuse is one of the worst crimes, as it attacks those who are least able to defend themselves. These instances and statistics are not something Alaskans should tolerate. We are better than this.

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