April 29, 2013 10:05:37 AM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
Seventeen Mississippi children died in 2012 as a result of child abuse. Those 17 were among 7,968 children who were abused in Mississippi last year.
In an effort to raise awareness, local organization Sally Kate Winters Family Services is asking people to wear blue Tuesday.
Heather Usry, outreach coordinator for Sally Kate Winters, said that while most people may not want to bring up the topic of child abuse in a daily conversation, wearing blue is an opportunity to start a conversation about the issue.
"Because of the sensitive nature of the topic we want to give people the tools they would need if and when they are confronted with this issue," Usry said. "We want to try to take the taboo, the stigma, away from talking about it so that people can understand it's not just a national issue, it's a local issue and it's 100 percent preventable.
"Awareness and education lead to prevention.".
Usry said the idea of wearing the color blue began in West Virginia when a grandmother tied a blue ribbon around the antenna of her car to raise awareness of the sometimes silent epidemic. The woman's grandson had died at the hands of his abuser.
"Blue represented the black and blue bruises," Usry said.
According to data compiled by the Sally Kate Winters organization, 28,666 referrals were made to local organizations on behalf of abused children in Mississippi in 2012. The majority of those children were under four-years-old.
Usry said wearing blue is a simple act that doesn't require anything other than the willingness to have a conversation.
"Just wear blue," she said. "Just be willing to talk about it. By making yourself aware, you can't help but make others aware, too. It's something you can't help but feel responsible for."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.