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LOGAN — Rain boots, sandals, sneakers and heels: The children’s shoes lining the steps of the Cache County Courthouse Wednesday spanned all varieties.
“There are even little baby shoes up there,” said Miss Cache Valley Morgan Flandro. “It just breaks your heart.”
The visual arts project, part of the Cache County Child and Family Support Center’s sixth annual Steppin’ Up for Children event, used 327 pairs of shoes to represent the 327 substantiated cases of child abuse filed in Cache County last year.
The center’s executive director, Esterlee Molyneux, described the event as an attempted wake-up call.
“We live in such a nice community that sometimes people are not aware that child abuse does happen,” Molyneux said.
In fact, child abuse is alarmingly common in Cache Valley. Estimates hold consistent with the state average of one instance of abuse every 58 minutes.
“This is not the Happy Valley you think it is,” said Belva Hansen, a children’s advocate with the center.
Wednesday’s event featured speeches from Miss Utah Karlie Major, whose organization collected and donated the shoes displayed, and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who has made child abuse and child sexual abuse a central focus of his administration.
Please, report suspected abuse. I would rather have 10 reports that are unsubstantiated than one (legitimate) case that you fail to report because you're worried about upsetting somebody in the neighborhood or upsetting the family dynamic.
–Attorney General Sean Reyes
Sporting a blue tie to commemorate National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Reyes reminded attendees of several state prevention efforts and resources, including the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, the human trafficking strike force and the “One with Courage” campaign, a bystander intervention-focused effort announced Tuesday.
“This is one of our highest priorities in the A.G.’s office, but it needs to be one of our highest priorities as citizens of the state,” Reyes told the social workers, police officers and Cache Valley residents clustered around the courthouse steps. “We have put more resources toward investigating and prosecuting child sex crimes and child abuse, but all the investigation and prosecution in the world won’t solve this problem unless you all, as concerned citizens, help us to be that one voice with courage to give a voice to victims.”
Reyes also encouraged citizens to err on the side of caution when reporting suspected instances of child abuse.
“Please, report suspected abuse,” Reyes implored. “I would rather have 10 reports we investigate that turn out to be unsubstantiated than one (legitimate) case that you fail to report because you’re worried about upsetting somebody in the neighborhood or upsetting the family dynamic.”
With enough community support, Molyneux hopes Steppin’ Up for Children may one day become obsolete.
“This is far too many,” she said, gesturing to the standing army of sneakers. “We hope to one day see zero shoes.”