Recorder: "Child abuse awareness month raises attention to issues locally"

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Child abuse awareness month raises attention to issues locally

By JOSHUA SOLOMON

Staff Writer

Published: 4/5/2019 11:04:13 PM

Photo credit: Josh Solomon

GREENFIELD — One hundred and seven children in Franklin County last year came through the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office for reported cases of sexual or physical abuse. About 22 percent were ages 6 and under, while 60 percent of the total were girls.

While public awareness of reporting child abuse has increased in recent years in the region, the issue remains prevalent and high on the radar of the district attorney. This past year the office hired a staff member committed specifically to commercial exploitation; a dozen instances in Franklin County were investigated in 2018.

“All of us adults always need to be reminded what’s the most important thing: the kids in our community,” Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan said Friday.

For the fourth year in a row, community partners, from social workers to police officers, came together on the Greenfield Common for a flag-raising ceremony in honor of child abuse awareness month.

Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh raised the flag Friday and it will remain up through the month.

This year Irene Woods, the executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin, has looked to increase awareness around the issue. Two billboards in town look to raise concerns of child abuse along with a window display on Main Street.

“The awareness is a lot higher and I think people now aren’t afraid to speak up,” Sullivan said. “It may end up being very trivial but it may be something serious.”

As usual, the event struck a bittersweet tone of celebration of awareness and courage alongside the issues in our backyard.

“We see your resiliency and your courage and we believe you,” said Mary Kociela, director of domestic violence projects for the District Attorney’s Office, who emceed the event.

Federal Street Elementary School students sang three songs to lighten the mood on the cool, but dry spring morning. The singing is always the highlight of the event for the community members involved.

“I look forward to the kids coming together with their community,” Gina Clark, music teacher at Federal Street, said. “This is a really important event for them.”

They closed with their usual song, which has become a de facto anthem of the event — “Power In Me,” by Rebecca Lawrence.

The chorus goes:

“Nobody’s gonna hold me back,

Nobody’s gonna silence my words,

Nobody’s gonna close my mind,

I’ve got the power in me.”

Kociela closed out the ceremony reminding the children about the importance of the event.

“As the years goes by, remember this moment and remember the power of community because it’s so uplifting,” Kociela said.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264