The entire month of April is child abuse awareness and prevention month. Wednesday afternoon child advocacy centers on both sides of the Chattahoochee hosted a ceremony of hope.
Everyone who attended the ceremony took a carnation at the end of the program and tossed it into the river. The carnations represented a child abused in Russell County and Columbus.
Among those tossing carnations in the Chattahoochee were Kelsey Williamson. She is now seven years old, but when she was four, a close family friend who was 15 years old took advantage of her. "It was difficult for our whole family because we had put a lot of trust in him. We had known him since he was ten years old," said Kelsey's Mom, Debi Crawford.
Employees at child advocacy centers say it does not matter what side of the street you come from, child abuse affects everyone. "It doesn't matter what your background is, we have offenders and victims from all backgrounds," said Russell Co. Child Advocate, Lynn Hart.
The ceremony was a reminder that one out of every five boys and one out of every three girls will be abused before their 18th birthday. Something professionals who interview victims say can be difficult. "The heartbreaking stories that I have to hear and the damage that is done to these young innocent lives is hard at times," said Columbus Child Advocate, Angela Crabtree.
Meanwhile, for families affected by child abuse, the tossing of carnations is like, "throwing away the pain and getting rid of the pain abusers cause many families," said Crawford.
Kelsey's mother says her daughter's abuser is still behind bars. She says this year has been a positive one for their family, because they are moving forward with their lives.