By Ralph Mancini

Mayor Will Haynie (at lectern) kicked off the Tuesday morning press conference by urging community members to bring child abuse cases out of the shadows and into the light.

The annual ringing in of Child Abuse Prevention Month on the steps of Mount Pleasant Town Hall saw Mayor Will Haynie join local youth advocates and law enforcement in cracking the lid off a form of oppression that has traditionally resided in the shadows of society.

“What we’re here to talk about about today is something that was once kept quiet. It was called a family matter,” began Haynie during the April 2 press conference.

“And I don’t know about everybody here, but I’m old enough to remember those days when things like this were just not discussed in public.”

Haynie went on to observe how sweeping abuse under the rug has resulted in a copious number of cases of neglect and trauma. In 2023, he stated, the Lowcountry-based Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center assisted 791 children manifesting a range of abuse-related issues.

“What I’m here to say is: Even one child abuse is one too many and it breaks your heart to think about almost 800 that were helped just last year,” reasoned the second-term Town mayor.

Haynie was one of many conference attendees and public staffers flashing a blue and silver pinwheel on his lapel, symbolizing childhood innocence.

Speaking on behalf of impressionable youngsters who have been exploited at an early age was Dee Norton Advocacy Center Executive Director Beverly Hutchinson. While expounding on the stats communicated by Haynie, she mentioned that 270 of the 791 abuse cases cited were handled at Dee Norton’s East of the Cooper location at 677 Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant.

The continued abuse of minors, she noted, is a form of neglect and violence that knows no codes and had no boundaries.

“For those children, the nightmare of abuse has been interrupted. For those children, hope and healing is beginning,” stated Hutchinson, who has been a Dee Norton advocate since her volunteer days in 1991.

Further, the guest speaker rattled off additional stats by sharing that one in five girls and one in 10 boys will be physically abused before they turn 18.

“We believe child abuse is a grown-up problem. It is our privilege and our responsibility to provide a safe environment, a nurturing environment for our children,” affirmed Hutchinson.

Source: Moultrie News