A planning meeting to raise awareness about child abuse was held at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Thursday evening. People attending included: Shelley Currier from Wings of Life, Mary Colby of CASA, and Virginia Villarreal and Renee Fitts of the New Mexico Child, Family and Youth Department.
President of the Clovis United Methodist Women Sherrie Goff, who served as the meeting’s chairwoman, said that often people believe that things “like this” don’t happen to “people like us,” but abuse is no respecter of class, territory or gender boundaries.
She described an incident that happened in her family where her father was stabbed and killed during a home invasion. “It was a middle class home … and all this guy got away with was a bank card, a few credit cards and $60, and it cost my father his life.”
She also discussed the concept of anger and its place in the stages of grief. “At first I was mad at God. Then, I was mad at the police.”
Goff has decided that now that her family has relocated to Roswell and the anger has passed, it is time to do something about some of the ills that afflict society.
Colby concurred, saying: “All too often, people try to fix blame. We need to emphasize the positive. Let everyone know about the services we have available in Roswell.”
Discussion surrounded what services were available and how easy or difficult it could be for families to contact these services, from parenting classes to child care and health care services. Currier said the most comprehensive list was probably available from United Way, but did not know how recently it had been updated. Those attending agreed that one priority would be to obtain various lists and compare them to develop an overall comprehensive list.
Some argued that often parents would not admit there was a problem or go to any parenting classes available.
One family member of a victim said that children of abuse were the last to speak not only because they may fear reprisal, but also because they knew no other life and could imagine no other life than that they had with their parents. She also acknowledged the other members of the family could often tell, but often others would not listen.
The grandparents of Jonathan Miller, the 30-day-old child abuse victim that died in September as result of severe injuries came to support the effort.
Grandfather Don James believed that ignorance to the depth of the problem was a factor. He said: “We have children having children and … People don’t realize the sheer mass and numbers of children who are injured or die each year because of child abuse.”
Miller’s grandmother, Andrea James, expressed disillusionment at the response of police officers to their suspicions about child abuse. However, she noted that they contacted the Roswell Police Department twice and the officers exhibited varied reactions.
“One said that there was nothing he could do. Another, a Sgt. Cruz, told us we could ask anytime for a welfare check.”
Only a few days later, the infant was “brain dead.”
Another grandmother of a different child victim, Anna spoke with passion about the RPD’s unwillingness to check on her report of a 21-year-old sexual predator who allegedly solicits 13- to 14-year-old girls on Facebook. She told the Daily Record: “He nearly killed her (the granddaughter). I was with her in the hospital for two days before I made the report. … I was told to put up or shut up.”
Anna said she never obtained a copy of the officer’s card nor was she given the name of the officer, and never received a copy of a written report.
Anna also said that her grandchildren were witnesses to the shooting at Berrendo Middle School. “People don’t know it, but Nathan was a hero. He wasn’t a bully. He pushed one girl out of the way and body blocked the other shot and that was why he was hurt so bad.”
The group hopes to hold a prayer vigil at the courthouse in the future, along with other events with music, booths where agencies could tell members of the public about the services they offer.
Many will attend the town hall meeting with RPD Chief Phil Smith at Roswell Boys and Girls Club tonight to present their concerns.
Each agreed that the problem had to be addressed in small steps, providing information being one of the first and further planning meetings to be held in the future.