By Rachel Dove
WILLIAMSON - In keeping with an important tradition that has taken place in Williamson over the past few years, a short walk was held Wednesday in honor of victims of child abuse that allowed those participating an opportunity to show their support to continue the fight for those too young or too helpless to protect or defend themselves.
The month of April was proclaimed as “Child Abuse Awareness Month” during a recent Mingo County Commission meeting, and a special ceremony was held at noon Wednesday that ended on the lawn of the Mingo County Courthouse. Teresa Maynard, Mingo County prosecuting attorney, has been an advocate for children since taking a position as an assistant prosecutor in 2005.
Maynard spoke of the great number of cases that have come through the county judicial system, and of the efforts that have continued, not just by her office, but by the officers who investigate and make the arrests in these cases, the Child Protective Services workers who are called out at all hours of the night to go to a child in need, and by the Tug Valley Recovery Shelter, which provides mothers and their children a safe haven when they have nowhere else to go.
Children from the Cinderella Headstart program and the Williamson Christian School walked in the short parade, carrying blue and silver pinwheels, which are the official symbol of child abuse awareness, and planted them on the courthouse lawn, creating a beautiful garden of blue and silver that will remain in place throughout the month and will serve as a reminder of all the children who, at one time or another, have suffered abuse at the hands of another, and especially for those who left this world all too soon because they had no one to stand between them and their abuser.
The Child Abuse Awareness Flag features colored figures that represent children, with the middle figure remaining blank, representing the children who have lost their lives. The flag flies proudly on the pole outside the courthouse, joining one that was already flying for Autism Awareness Month, which also takes place in April.
Tonya Webb, CPS supervisor, headed up the afternoon event, and remains one of the strongest advocates for children in Mingo County. Webb goes beyond the call of duty, helping families and children in need in her personal life, not just her professional one. Webb recently organized a fundraiser for the family of a teen from Pike County, Ky., who lost her life this weekend to cancer. Another fundraiser to assist the family with burial expenses is planned for April 19 at the Williamson Fieldhouse.
“Children who are in need, no matter what the circumstance may be, deserve someone to step forward to help them,” Webb said. “That’s why I chose this career, that’s why I do everything that I can to help. No one has a guarantee of tomorrow, and we none know when it may be us or one of our family members that’s in need.”
Webb is a firm believer that every child in Mingo County, the state of West Virginia, as well as across the nation, deserves to have a safe, happy and productive childhood, but she realizes that’s not the way real life is. However, she is adamant when she says that if everyone who can, does their part to stand up for children they know are being physically, emotionally or mentally abused, they stand a fighting chance.
“Without advocates to fight for them, they don’t stand a very good chance of surviving the abuse,” Webb said.
“We encourage anyone out there that knows of a situation involving a child being abused to report it to either your local law enforcement agency or your local CPS office,” Webb said. “Don’t ever assume that it’s not as bad as it looks or that the situation will correct itself. I’d rather go out and investigate a report we received and not find abuse than to be called to a scene that ended in the death of a child that may have been prevented if we were told about it and had the chance to intervene.”
“Children are victims in most abuse cases because they are easy targets; they’re simply too small or too young to take up for themselves or ask for help. That’s where we come in … we protect those who can’t protect themselves.”
For more information on what you can do to participate in the fight against child abuse, or to report the alleged abuse of a child, you may call the Williamson office of the Department of Health and Human Resources at 304-235-4680.