The Children’s Advocacy Center for Rockwall County is urging the community to join in on the fight against child abuse.
Each year in April, the advocacy center makes an increased effort to promote “Childhood Abuse Prevention Month,” a tradition started by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.
As part of that effort, the nonprofit has kicked off a Facebook photo contest, and is preparing for its third annual gala, scheduled 6 p.m. April 26 at the Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront, located 2055 Summer Lee Dr. in Rockwall.
Many around the country use the color blue throughout the month to recognize Childhood Abuse Prevention Month.
“We’re making some big strides just to paint the county blue,” said Patricia Mejia, director of the advocacy center in Rockwall.“The municipal building at Fate, all of downtown Royse City, McLendon-Chisholm, the municipal building in Heath, both the historic and new courthouses in Rockwall and the Rockwall Police Department are all going blue to help create awareness.”
The “Go Blue for Kids” gala is the largest fundraiser for the center, which works with local law enforcement, medical and child protective services to help survivors abuse receive the help they need. The Rockwall County center was established in 2016, and is part of a larger national organization based in Alabama that began in the mid 1980s.
In previous years, the organization has invited guest speakers to the gala to share their stories of redemption and hope.
“I want to be able to share with people openly about abuse so they can begin to tell their own stories. I choose to go first so someone else can say ‘me too,’” said Mary DeMuth, an author who was a guest speaker at last year’s gala.
Tickets for the gala cost $100 per person, and the center is still accepting sponsors for the event.
The organization is also in the middle of deciding the winners of its Facebook photo contest. Contestants submit photos of themselves wearing the color blue for a chance to win two tickets to the gala, and the public votes for their favorite photos. Those who cannot attend the gala are given tickets for a different event in September.
Mejia told the Royse City Herald-Banner that residents and leaders must first understand their role in recognizing and preventing abuse in order for the community to protect its youth.
“It’s not an easy topics to discuss and the public showing their support lets kids know that there are places and people that can help them,” Mejia said.
Mejia and other members of the local advocacy center attended the Fate City Council meeting on Monday evening for the proclamation of April as Childhood Abuse Prevention Month. Other cities in the county have made similar proclamations.
According to a 2017 report published by the Children’s Bureau, an agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 3.5 million children were subjects of at least one reported case of neglect or abuse. Less than 18 percent of those reports were made by friends, neighbors and relatives of the child.
“About one in five kids are at risk of some form of abuse before they turn 18,” Mejia said. “Data from reported cases also show that out of about ten victims, only one will make an outcry.”