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Child abuse awareness event slated for today

By Robin Y. Richardson
April 24, 2012 at 10 p.m.

More than 300 survivors of child abuse will be celebrated today in observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month as the Martin House Children's Advocacy Center hosts a "Raising Hope" celebration at the Harrison County Historic Courthouse at noon.

"This will be a unique event that celebrates the wonder and innocence of children and inspires hope for their happier, safer future," said Roxanne Stevenson, executive director of the advocacy center.

The advocacy center serves Harrison and Gregg counties. According to a press release, it provided services to 284 abused children in 2011 alone.

And in honor of victims, officials said local children's choirs and dignitaries will provide an uplifting message of hope and healing at today's event and a commitment to building safer communities for East Texas.

"Harrison County Judge Hugh Taylor will read a proclamation, acknowledging April as Child Abuse Prevention Month," said Ms. Stevenson. "District Attorney Coke Solomon will provide an inspirational message of hope and justice to child abuse victims and their families, and Miss Caroline Bump accompanied by students from Trinity School of Marshall will perform a beautiful song called 'A Place Called Hope'."

Bubbles will also be released into the sky in honor of the young survivors and families, signifying "the burden of child abuse lifted from their lives through the assistance of the advocacy center."

According to a proclamation approved by the Harrison County Commissioners' Court on Tuesday, child abuse is a national tragedy affecting millions of children and families nationwide. In Harrison County, 962 allegations of child abuse or neglect were reported last year. Of those, 219 were confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect, 41 of those victims were removed from their homes and 127 of the young victims were placed in the care of the advocacy center.

"It takes tremendous courage for a child to tell someone he or she is abused," said Ms. Stevenson. "In the majority of sexual abuse cases, children are molested by someone they know, love, or trust, making it even more difficult for victims to talk about what's happening to them. When children are ready to talk, though, we're here to help them."



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