The center is one of numerous organizations across the United States that held events in April for National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
This past Thursday, the group held their 17th Annual Dinner at Puccini's Restaurant in Jersey City. Hudson County Prosecutor Edward J. DeFazio and Maura Somers Dughi, Esq., a nationally recognized advocate for child abuse prevention, received the Hon. Thomas F. Cowan Distinguished Service Award at the dinner.
Child abuse is defined according to federal guidelines as "Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation."
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 2005, an estimated three million children in the U.S. were allegedly abused or neglected and underwent investigations or assessments by state and local child protective services agencies.
Also, an estimated 1,460 children nationwide died due to child abuse or neglect, with 75 percent of those children killed ages 4 and younger.
Even if the abuse stops, it can affect children well into their adulthood.Working on a sensitive issue
Peter Herbst is the executive director of the Hudson County Child Abuse Prevention Center and has worked at the center since 1989. Their office is located at 880 Bergen Ave. in Jersey City, but they are planning to open a center on Newark Avenue near the Hudson County Administration Building to work more closely with the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office.
Herbst said the nearly 20 years he has worked at the center, it has concentrated on several major aspects to combat child abuse in Hudson County: parenting education, sponsoring an annual child abuse prevention convention, youth empowerment/personal safety workshops for children, and community awareness.
He also talked about how the issue of child abuse is dealt with today, as opposed to when since he started at the center.
"Child abuse prevention was not really anything people focused on," Herbst said. "But there is now a greater awareness than there was 20 years ago."
Herbst added, "At the same time, people are surprised to find that 85 percent of abuse is perpetrated by either members of the family or people who are known to the family. And many people still think abuse is perpetrated by strangers or unusual types of people."
Herbst also pointed out that sexual abuse, which gets much play on newscasts, is not from his experience the most common form of child abuse.
"The most common form of abuse is neglect, where parents and guardians neglect a child's need for food or medical care," Herbst said. "But you don't see in headlines 'Child was neglected' but instead 'Child was sexually abused.' " 'Safe, Strong and Free'
The NJ Child Assault Prevention Project (CAP), a statewide prevention program that since its inception in 1985, has trained over two million children, parents and teachers to prevent child assault in all forms.
Their motto is "All Children Deserve to be Safe, Strong and Free."
CAP is based in 21 counties including Hudson County, where CAP representatives visit private and public schools including such towns as Jersey City, North Bergen, Guttenberg and Bayonne.
Jersey City resident Millie Castillo, the coordinator for the Hudson County CAP, said facilitators go into the schools to teach about what to do to prevent themselves from being victims of abusive behavior.
"We do role-playing to show how to say no, what is good touch/bad touch, who to go to for help, who is a stranger and not a stranger," Castillo said. "We teach them how to do a deep, loud yell, how to protect themselves from attack by such self-defense moves as kicking an attacker in the shins."
Castillo said she sees the value of the program grown over the years as more people are accepting of what CAP is teaching.
"I have parents come to me and say, 'I remember when you guys came to my class, I remember that yell, I remember what you taught me," Castillo said. "So many children have thanked us for helping them to talk about a situation." Comments on this story can be sent to email@example.com