Child abuse doesn’t just fade with the bruises, Muskegon Mayor takes a stand

Posted at 8:39 PM, Apr 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-30 20:39:16-04

MUSKEGON Mich. - Thousands of children are the victims of violence, abuse, and neglect every year in Muskegon County.

Friday, officials there took a public stand at a ceremony to raise awareness and hopefully reverse this disturbing trend.

Muskegon Mayor, Steve Gawron, found it hard to speak on behalf of more than 3,000 reports of child abuse last year in Muskegon County alone.

"It's a good thing that we are here and it's also a bad thing that we are here," said Mayor Gawron.

Instead, he's looking for answers in a city wide proclamation.

"I do hereby proclaim April 30th, 2015 to be Child Abuse Prevention Day in Muskegon.

City officials remembered each and every child Thursday by tying thousands of blue ribbons outside the Muskegon Hall of Justice, one ribbon for every call made last year to Child Protective Services.

Muskegon County Prosecutor, DJ Hilson, believes abuse often goes unreported.

"It's not uncommon for us to get a report one or two years after an event, sometimes even 10 or 15 years after an event, said Hilson. "Anytime you get more than one there's always a cause for concern."

Felicia Vanniekerk, physically abused by her step-father, still wrestles with the horrific memories.

"I hate it when people say they know what you're going through and they really don't.

Vanniekerk found refuge in the Child Abuse Council of Muskegon after being taken away from her parents and bouncing around in foster care for more than 10 years. Now, she's dedicating her life to social work.

"To these kids I can say, 'I know what you're going through, I may not know specifically, but in my own way I know',"said Vanniekerk.

Vanniekerk is working alongside the Child Abuse Council of Muskegon as a mentor, and graduates in holy a few short years, hoping to be a voice for children that they may not otherwise have.