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Commissioners don teal in support of Sexual Assault Prevention

CADIZ — The Harrison County Board of Commissioners signed a proclamation Wednesday presented by Tri-County Help Center recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

As a part of Tri-County Help Center’s annual campaign to spread awareness, staff have attended commission meetings throughout the week in Belmont, Monroe and Harrison counties, where the agency provides services.

On Wednesday, Chelsea Scott, administrative compliance coordinator for Tri-County Help Center, said each year they ask officials in each county to accept and declare the proclamation identifying April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Scott read the proclamation, which calls on members of the community to aid in the efforts to expand sexual assault prevention efforts and help to ensure the next generation adopts attitudes that support and promote healthy relationships.

Scott read statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center that state someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds, and every nine minutes that victim is a child.

“Child sexual abuse prevention must be a priority to confront the reality that one in six boys and one in four girls will experience a sexual assault before age 18,” she said.

Commissioners Don Bethel, Dale Norris and Paul Coffland unanimously signed the proclamation. They also showed their support by wearing teal, the color symbolizes support for the cause.

Scott said the agency’s theme for this year is: “It’s time to talk about it.”

“It’s never an easy topic. … We’re just really encouraging individuals to have that conversation,” she said.

Scott said they will also be hosting a series of events and campaigns to raise awareness, provide education and survivor support throughout the month. A self-defense workshop will be held at 5 p.m. April 19 at the St. Clairsville J.B. Martin Recreation Center; the SAAM Dog Walk will be held at 11 a.m. April 24 at Sally Buffalo Park in Cadiz; and the SAAM Balloon Release will be held at 10 a.m. April 26 at Heritage Port in Wheeling. She said the center’s goal is to speak at local schools to educate students on consent, healthy relationships and bystander intervention. Additionally, the agency plans to educate the community on the different dynamics of sexual assault.

“Sometimes we know that sexual assault victims come along with drug abuse and addiction, or there are many different forms of sexual assault than what we commonly think of in society,” she said.

Also at the meeting, Deb Knight, assistant director of the Harrison County Department of Job and Family Services, provided an update about Children’s Services amid Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

In honor of prevention month, the agency recently lined the courthouse stairs with 314 pinwheels — each pinwheel represents a report of child abuse or neglect received by the department in 2020. The recent numbers are down from in previous years, Knight said. The DJFS received 512 reports in 2018, and 380 reports in 2019. The cause is most likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and cases of neglect and abuse going unnoticed, she said.

“Our reports are down quite a bit. That was actually a nationwide phenomenon because of the pandemic and kids not being seen,” she said.

In 2020, out of the 314 reports received 5 percent involved emotional maltreatment, 6 percent involved medical neglect, 42 percent involved neglect, 32 percent involved abuse, and 16 percent involved sexual abuse.

Commissioner signed the proclamation recognizing April as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

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