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Child abuse prevention, big priority in Mercer County

Today is the last day of April and the last day of “Child Abuse Prevention Month.”

Like so many other communities nationally, Mercer County united to raise awareness with numerous events throughout the month, including the 21st annual “Children’s Memorial Flag Day,” a National Day of Remembrance for children who’ve died from violence and other preventable causes.

Although the month of April is ending, child abuse prevention doesn’t stop and county leaders are encouraging all residents to pay attention to any possible child abuse incidents.

“It’s our prayer that next April when we have the “Children’s Memorial Flag Day” that we’re not remembering any child who’s been lost,” said Shiloh Woodard, Executive Director for Child Protect Mercer County, Inc. “No kids who have lost their lives due to preventable causes.”

Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler says his office handles about 800 abuse and neglect cases every year and they hope House Bill 2933, which was vetoed due to a technicality, will soon pass.

“If it passes then all those charges will be felonies in the future,” said Sitler. “I’m confident the bill will be taken up again.”

“It may not prevent abuse on the front end but what the harsher penalties will do is speak to victims,” said Woodard. “It says the justice system takes what happened to you seriously and will hold the people who did this to you, accountable.”

Woodard advises all adults to listen to anything a child tells them, no matter how big or small.

“Children have so much to say,” said Woodard. “Unfortunately, there are so many children in our community who are living in very traumatic situations.”

Anyone with information about a child who might be abused is encouraged to call the West Virginia abuse and neglect hotline at 1-800-352-6513.

Jennifer Roberts

Multimedia Journalist

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