Somber event pays tribute to local child abuse victims

Published 2:15 am Saturday, April 14, 2018

Members of the legal and social work communities joined friends of the Covington County Child Advocacy Center on the Square Friday to release 160 blue balloons as solemn reminders of the number of local children who suffer abuse.

The ceremony is held during April, Child Abuse Awareness Month, to honor the child victims of abuse and neglect.

CCCA Director Kaci Perry recites “One” by Mayam Kazmi.
Christopher Smith/Star-News

CCCA Director Kaci Perry said it takes an entire community to ensure the smiles of children. She went on to recite a poem titled “One” by Maryam Kazmi.

“The main purpose of the CCCA is the healing and restoration of children,” Perry said. “The child abuse awareness iniative started because it came to President Kennedy’s attention that 500,000 children had been reported as abused. Since that time, there are now more than six million reports of child abuse in the nation.”

District Attorney Walt Merrell talked about the three monkeys – Mizaru, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru who speaks no evil.

“I am here today to tell you that evil does exist,” Merrell said. “Society has used these three monkeys as the face of child abuse. So that people will turn their eyes away from it, not listen to the children’s desperate cries for help and will not speak up about child abuse.”

Merrell said that there were 112 charges of child abuse in Covington County in the last year and 79 forensic interviews conducted by the CCCA.

“So many people see, hear and talk about this evil,” Merrell said. “And always there is some hesitation as they say, ‘It’s none of my business, I don’t want to get involved.’ But we must identify it, listen with our hearts and speak of this evil on behalf of these children.”

Several young children who performed after the speech, were lined in front of Merrell as he spoke about child abuse.

“These children in front of me, they are the voice, eyes and ears of the ones we need to protect,” Merrell said. “We are here today to bring awareness to the many here who have suffered.”

Department of Human Resources Director Lesa Syler said the 160 balloons released this year represented each child who was abused in the previous year.

“I am so proud that these children were brave enough to share their story,” Syler said.

While the balloons were released, children from Red Level Elementary School and Pleasant Home Schools sang “The Future Begins With Us” by Teresa Jennings.

“This was a great experience for all of the children,” Joy Sowards, who directed the children, said. “This my second year directing the children. I brought Andalusia Elementary School students last year, but decided to bring county schools this year to diversify it.”

Sowards said that she talked to the children about the importance of their performance.

“I wanted to make sure they knew the importance of reported child abuse,” Sowards said. “It gave them a special feeling about why they were singing today.”