During April you may see people wearing a looped blue ribbon or a blue ribbon pin in observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month, and you may wonder what the significance of the blue ribbon is. In fact, there is deep meaning behind what has become a nationally recognized symbol for child abuse prevention.
In the spring of 1989, a grandmother named Bonnie Finney took a stand against child abuse in Norfolk, Va. She tied a blue ribbon on the antenna of her minivan in remembrance of her late grandson and as a signal to her community that child abuse was a devastating social plague.
Her grandson, Michael Wayne “Bubba” Dickenson, and his siblings had lived in an at-risk, abusive home environment. Despite Finney’s efforts to intervene on behalf of her grandchildren, the boyfriend of the children’s mother murdered 3-year-old Bubba. His body was found, bound, beaten, and bruised, in a weighted toolbox at the bottom of a canal.
Finney said she was thinking about all the bruises she had seen on her grandchildren and decided to tie a blue ribbon on her van. She said she intended to never forget the battered, bruised bodies of her grandchildren and used the color blue as a reminder to fight for protection of children.
Finney’s personal campaign to raise public awareness was joined by a Norfolk parent assistance program and a local radio station. Soon, stores, businesses, schools, churches, civic organizations, and social service agencies were participating in the campaign and thousands of blue ribbons were displayed in the name of child abuse prevention. The spirit of her blue ribbon grew and inspired a statewide community-based effort to prevent child abuse in every town, every community and every city and county.
Since then, Bonnie Finney’s simple act of education and remembrance has inspired a nationwide movement and led states throughout the country to participate in the campaign by designating the month of April each year Child Abuse Prevention Month.