April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

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Shelli Parker, Athens Daily Review, Texas
·3 min read
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Apr. 8—Volunteers gathered on the square to place 352 blue pinwheels in honor of each Henderson County's victim of child abuse in 2020. T-shirts were also hung on the clothesline with each one representing a victim.

April was officially declared Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness Month April 6 during the Henderson County Commissioners Court followed by a proclamation at noon Tuesday on the square.

Maggie's House Child Advocacy Center

The year 2020 showed an increase of 11% over prior years in cases of child abuse. There were over 1,000 victim investigations in Henderson County with 352 confirmed victims, according to Leslie Saunders, executive director of Maggie's House Child Advocacy Center, which assisted 310 of those children in 2020.

MHCAC provides the initial forensic interview of the alleged abuse, which is recorded and played during the legal process to protect the victim from having to relive the experience over and over again. This helps protect the child from further trauma. The organization then provides after-care services such as medical, counseling and long term case management for the young victims.

"It is a community responsibility, and finding solutions depends on involvement by everyone," Saunders said. "Effective child abuse prevention programs succeed due to partnerships between agencies, schools, religious organizations, law enforcement and the business community."

Unfortunately, many victims found themselves trapped at home with their abusers, making it difficult to ask for help due to the pandemic. With the return of access to this network and school hope also returned.

Maggie's House was established in 1987 and provides supportive services to children and families who deal with horrific child abuse and neglect.

Maggie's House is sponsoring an event at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 17 at 5H Shooting Sports. Teams can shoot skeet, enjoy a live and silent auction while raising funds to fight child abuse and assist victims. Registration is $125 a person. Contact 903-675-4357 and speak with Amanda for more details.

East Texas Crisis Center

The East Texas Crisis Center spoke at both events on the need to protect one another from these crimes. Every 92 seconds a person is sexually assaulted in the United States.

"Every day, men, women and children across Texas suffer the pain and trauma of sexual assault in our communities leaving long lasting physical and emotional scars," Amanda Cooper said.

It is estimated over half of these cases go unreported.

"We recommit ourselves to lifting the veil of secrecy and shame surrounding sexual violence and strengthening our response," Cooper said.

The Crisis center has assisted 48 sexual assault and domestic violence victims in the first quarter of 2021.

These heinous acts of violence effect people from all backgrounds, and circumstances. She urged the community to help protect each other and bring perpetrators to justice.

"We must decrease its frequency, hold offenders accountable, support victims and heal lives," she said.

County Judge Wade McKinney stated the number of abuse cases was a travesty.

"Until we as a community look at it in that fashion instead of moving forward with our lives and looking away, it is not going to end," McKinney said. "We hope and pray that these resolutions assist in y'alls efforts and bring the attention that is needed."

The East Texas Crisis Center provides assistance to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault from the moment they plan to leave, throughout the legal process and into the healing and rebuilding phase through support, programs and financial assistance. The Crisis Center will host their Walk A Mile Fundraiser in May.

If you or someone you know is being abused, please reach out to the East Texas Crisis Center at 903-675-2137 for help.