April is Child Abuse Awareness and Sexual Assault Awareness month in Texas and, as is the custom in Henderson County, time for the people who fight against the violent scourge to come together.
They did that on the courthouse lawn Tuesday afternoon — law enforcement, advocates, volunteers, victims and their families — for a proclamation reading.
A visual reminder of the problem was provided by the blue and teal ribbons worn by everyone, and by the Clothesline Project, hanging t-shirts that represent victims of domestic violence.
“Every year that T-Shirt Project grows larger and larger,” said East Texas Crisis Center Director of Outreach Donna Johnson, “and I like to think it is not necessarily because we have more victims, but because more survivors are coming forward and telling their stories.”
Getting the victims to come forward is no easy task. Johnson said it was recently reported that just 18 percent of sexual assaults are reported.
“That leaves 80 percent of offenders that are never detected,” Johnson said. “Those are staggering numbers.”
Even with just one-fifth of assaults reported, Texas still handled more than 19,000 cases in 2011.
The East Texas Crisis Center has already helped 15 victims of sexual assault in just the first three months of 2013.
Elvis Allen of CASA of Trinity Valley said there were 161 confirmed cases of child abuse in Henderson County. Nearly half of those ended up in foster care.
“Unfortunately, we see these kids on almost a daily basis,” he said.
In 2012 CASA of Trinity Valley advocated for 245 children in foster care — and nearly half of those were under the age of 5.
“Our most youngest and vulnerable citizens,” he said.
“Let us all as citizens commit to making our county a safe and nurturing place for our children to grow and prosper,” he said.
See more photos from the event here.
Go Blue T-shirts
The District Attorney’s Office, County Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office and Child Advocacy Center are promoting the Go Blue t-shirt campaign for the fifth straight year.
Henderson County teachers in grades 5 and lower receive free blue ribbon t-shirts, because teachers are the frontline of defense against child abuse.
The shirts are also for sale to the public for $10, with extra large sizes $13.
This year’s campaign is: “Have a heart, do your part; Prevent child abuse.”
Proceeds from the sale of the shirts help fund a fourth-grade poster contest for Henderson County schools, which is designed to educate and raise awareness and child abuse prevention.
Tuesday, April 30, will be Go Blue Day in Henderson County.
“We are rallying the community to stand together and help us turn Henderson County blue to show support,” said DeAnna Browning, crime victims coordinator at the District Attorney’s Office. “We are asking for citizens to encourage their family, friends, and co-workers not only to wear blue but to purchase a 2013 Go Blue t-shirt to help us end child abuse and neglect.”
The Go Blue t-shirts can be purchase at Island Tans in Athens or through Betty Herriage and DeAnna Browning with the Henderson County District Attrney’s Office at 903-675-6100 (ext. 6).
CASA Superhero Run
The annual CASA of Trinity Valley Superhero 5K run will be held Saturday, April 20, at the Cain Center.
The event includes a 5K race, child’s 1K race/walk and an adult 1K fun walk. Registration opens at 7 a.m. and races beginning at 8 a.m.
You can also register here.
T-shirts will be given to the first 300 registrants. Also the 4th Annual Kids Day, sponsored by Henderson County District Attorney’s Office and the Henderson County Attorney’s Office, will be provided as wrap around activities for the races. The local Athens Police Department will be fingerprinting and photographing kids for a permanent ID. There will be lots of activities for kids and everyone is encouraged to wear their superhero costumes to the races.