Hundreds of Madison residents and community members gathered at the corner of State Street and the Capitol Square on Sunday to participate in the Rainbird Foundation’s third annual Child Abuse Prevention Walk.
Participants walked one mile around the Square to join the foundation’s “1,000 Mile Journey” for the end of child abuse.
The Rainbird Foundation teamed up with other non-profit organizations that hosted booths at the event, including Safe Harbor, State Farm and Madison-Middleton Exchange Club.
A statement from the Rainbird Foundation said the 1,000 Mile Journey is the organization’s largest public education outreach and fundraising event.
“Ending child abuse is a major health issue,” the statement said. “Wisconsin spends $637 million each year on costs related to child abuse. The U.S. spends more than $136 billion each year. That boils down to more than $4,000 per second nationally.”
The event began with a speech from Hanna Roth, founder of the Rainbird Foundation, who shared her personal experience with child abuse, saying her father was a teacher, a convicted pedophile and a violent man.
“The recovery is so much worse than the abuse itself,” Roth said, “But I knew if I didn’t take a stand that it would continue to happen and that was not an option.”
Roth spoke about children’s rights as well.
“Now is the time to bring the light of truth to any corner of our culture where our darkest secrets lie,” she said.
She said children in the U.S. are treated as possessions and do not enjoy the rights guaranteed to them by the Declaration of Independence.
“I’ve been called pushy, but I will push when people refuse to listen,” Roth said, “I will not do what does not work because it is simply the norm. If we stay silent, we are part of the problem. We will not be silent. We will not be silent until we can look a child in the eye and say, with a pure heart, ‘you are my future.’”
Whitney Trotta, director of the walk, said she wants to encourage people to get involved with the Rainbird Foundation’s mobilization unit — also called “MOB unit.”
“The MOB unit urges people to take a stand for the end of child abuse,” she said, “There are small roles that you can play that will contribute to putting an end to the larger problem of child abuse.”
Regarding the importance of the event for the foundation and for the prevention of child abuse, Trotta said she thinks as consensus nobody likes child abuse, but added there is yet to be a real public demand to put an end to it.
She said the walk encourages people to seek a solution to the problem of child abuse and encourages people to act.
“Everyone should have a voice, including children,” Angela Shanley, participant and friend of Roth, said. “Hanna Roth is an incredible woman, and this is an incredible cause.”