LEWISBURG - Nearly five children die everyday in America from child abuse and neglect, according to the National Children's Alliance.
Growing up, Roger Lockridge said he witnessed his father beat his mother time and time again. To bury his pain, he invested himself in his schoolwork. ""I didn't want to be alone with my thoughts," he explained. "I didn't want to be alone to have to think about it. I had to stay occupied."
When he was ten years old, Lockridge said his dad held his mom and siblings at gunpoint. The police arrived in time and his family was unharmed, but he said the emotional damage ran deep.
Now, he is the program coordinator at the Child and Youth Advocacy Center in Lewisburg. He helps other kids dealing with abuse.
Lockridge said his work is never over, partly because many choose to ignore the issue. "Unfortunately there are those who want to put on the goggles or have the tunnel vision and not think about it," he said. "They don't realize the number of people who are affected by them putting on those goggles and not paying attention."
Last year, more than 2,600 children were affected by child abuse in West Virginia. Between 200 and 250 children are brought to the Advocacy Center each year because they have allegedly dealt with it, according to Lockridge. About half of center's cases are sexually related, while drug abuse is a close second.
No matter the form of abuse, Lockridge said it's always emotional. "It's all taking emotional tolls on children and families one way or the other," he explained.
Signs a child may be in an abusive situation include: if the child is normally active and then becomes isolated, if grades in school exaggerate either way and if the child has heightened anxiety. Lockridge recommended folks keep an eye out for these signs, since kids who are abused do not always come forward for help. "If they have an instinct, if they think something is wrong, they need to talk to someone," he said. "You could very easily be a hero and make a world of a difference to somebody."
Lockridge believes awareness is the first step to providing advocacy for those who need it.