by DeJanay Booth, Carlsbad Current-Argus
April 7, 2017

Patrick “P.J.” Munoz was 5 years old when he died on August 12, 1991, in Albuquerque. His father was charged in 1993 after investigators accused him of killing his son.

Patrick would have turned 30 on May 5, said his uncle, Adam P. Munoz III.

Munoz held a sign of his nephew’s name and face during the annual Walk Against Child Abuse on Friday in Carlsbad, hoping to bring awareness to under-reported child abuse.

Munoz, a custodian at Sunset Elementary School, said it was his first time attending the walk in Carlsbad. He has attended walks in Albuquerque.

“He’s my guardian angel,” said Munoz, who keeps a picture of Patrick in his vehicle. “If you don’t listen, if you don’t file reports, this is what happens.”

Cases such as Patrick’s and 10-year-old Victoria Martens, who was killed in Albuquerque last year, are the reasons there is a walk against child abuse, said Maria Calderon with the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) Carlsbad office.

Calderon said the walk, which is hosted by CYFD and the county’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) organization, is one of many ways to bring awareness to child abuse.

“Getting the community involved and say, ‘Don’t just look away and do something about it.’ I think a lot of people don’t know how, or say, ‘It’s none of our business. Well that’s how I was raised,'” Calderon said. “That’s our main goal — to keep kids safe. It (child abuse) is real. Kids are getting abused, neglected. And we all as a community need to do something about it.”

According to the KIDS COUNT data collected by the New Mexico Voices for Children, 18 per 1,000 New Mexico children under the age of 18 were reported to be abused and neglected in Fiscal Year 2015 — an increase from 16 per 1,000 in FY14.

A rate of 13 per 1,000 children abused and neglected were reported in Eddy County in FY15.

Calderon said a large number of families that she has visited with either are embarrassed to reach out to other family members for help or have been refused help.

She said she’s spoken with parents who are addicted to drugs, such as methamphetamine and opioids, or homeless and have trouble taking care of their children.

“We’re putting a stop to this tragedy by making sure everyone is aware of the problem,” said Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway. “All abuse leaves lasting scars and it’s sometimes transferred from generation to generation.”

Approximately 95 children are in foster care in Eddy County, Calderon said.

District Court Judge Jane S. Gray, who typically works on child abuse cases, said community involvement is helpful for legal officials.

Gray said reporting an incident as soon as possible allows judges and attorneys to quickly act on the case.

“If it turns out not to be a problem, (then) no problem. But if it was and you didn’t intervene, think of what has happened to your fellow human being,” Gray said at a special ceremony following the walk. “I would like everyone of you to help all of us work to not have abuse and neglect.”

New Mexico Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-55) said state legislators have worked to introduce bills against abuse. Brown said one bill in particular, House Bill 200, would make hazing a petty misdemeanor.

Brown said the bill was passed by the House of Representatives but was not voted on by Senate before the end of this year’s regular session.

“I do believe that this bill will be back in the next session and we’re going to pass it then,” she said. “And we’re going to make it clear that hazing is not acceptable behavior.”

Brown addressed Craft Elementary School students who attended the walk and said that they should not be afraid to talk to someone if they are suffering abuse or have witnessed it.

“The fact that you’re here today tells me that you’re going to help us get the word out about this,” she said.

Eddie Sanchez of the Guardians of the Children Pecos Valley chapter said, “Don’t let your silence drown out their cries.”

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