Massac Co. holds virtual child abuse prevention event

Heartlanders work to spread awareness for child abuse prevention.

SOUTHERN Ill. (KFVS) - Multiple agencies in Massac County held a child abuse prevention event on Wednesday, April 14.

It was livestreamed on Facebook.

Prevent Child Abuse Illinois, Massac County States Attorney Office, Massac County Mental Health, Massac Memorial Hospital, Guardian Family Services, and Family Counseling Center Inc. in partnership with the Southern 7 Child Abuse Prevention Coalition held the event to raise awareness of Child Abuse Prevention Month 2021.

Guest speakers included Brittney Hale, Program Assistant, Prevent Child Abuse Illinois; Tina Martin, Executive Director, Massac County Mental Health; and Josh Stratemeyer, Massac County States Attorney.

“It’s extremely important, April being child abuse prevention month,” Josh Stratemeyer said.

Stratemeyer said during the pandemic, there has been an uptick in abuse and neglect cases in the State Attorney’s office.

“There’s probably a number of different reasons for that- changes in family dynamics, loss of jobs, children being home more, stress related with that,” he said.

The number of cases reported decreased, but that doesn’t mean the abuse stopped, according Holly Windhorst. She’s the program director of Massac County’s Drug Awareness Coalition.

“The reporting was down last year, it’s going back up but the severity of the reports from last year are higher than usual,” Windhorst said.

Windhorst believed one of the reasons could be because kids weren’t in school.

“They weren’t around teachers and people that normally report the type of abuse,” she said.

Jordan Edmonds with Two Rivers Child Advocacy Center said she saw 33 percent more abused children in 2020 than in 2019.

“We continue to see more kids,” Edmonds said. “Part of those numbers were a large increase in physical abuse cases because the majority of the cases we see here is child sexual abuse.”

Edmonds believed intervention is one of the most helpful tools in helping abused and neglected kids.

Child Abuse Prevention Month has been observed each April since its first presidential proclamation in 1983.

Since that time, millions of Americans have participated in this national campaign.

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