02/29/12 — Vigil marks plight of abused children

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Vigil marks plight of abused children

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on February 29, 2012 1:46 PM

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Jessica Troquille lights candles Tuesday at the Life L.I.G.H.T.S event in remembrance of children who have lost their lives due to child abuse or neglect.

Several flames burned brightly for 17 tiny lives lost too early, while 600 small candles flickered for the children who are still victims of abuse and neglect during a candlelight vigil held Tuesday at Berkeley Mall.

Sponsored by the WAGES/Wayne County For Children Council, the Life L.I.G.H.T.S. was held to make the community aware that child abuse and neglect are happening here and to let people know how they can help prevent it.

"We can do something about it by reporting it," said Lee Mitchell-Lee, program specialist at the Partnership for Children of Wayne County.

She said abuse comes in many forms -- physical, mental, emotional, verbal, sexual.

"Abuse is happening right under our very noses," Mrs. Mitchell-Lee said. "It's a problem in our county and everywhere, even if it's just one child."

In addition to making the community aware that child abuse and neglect are happening, the vigil was also held to spotlight the children who have suffered maltreatment, abuse and neglect, as well as those who have died in the state.

More than 600 small candles were lit to remember the children in Wayne County who were reported as abused or neglected in 2010. Of that number, 400 were age 6 and younger, showing that it's youngest children who are most at risk, said Jennifer Dupuis, program assistant at WAGES.

She also noted that in 2009, more than 129,000 children were reported as victims of child abuse and neglect through Department of Social Services agencies in North Carolina.

"Child abuse and neglect affects kids even if they don't die," Mrs. Mitchell-Lee said. "It leaves mental and emotional scars as well as physical scars. Sometimes they are repeat offenders of what happened to them. The cycle will continue if something is not done about it. We're here on earth to take care of the children."

During the candle lighting, a song was played about a little girl who goes home one day to tell her father that one of her classmates lies to her, the class and the teacher.

The father brushes it off at first, but soon finds out that the classmate lies about the bruises all over her body. The father goes to school to report it, but is too late as the little girl has died from the abuse.

"That song and the prayer for children that was read tonight are for those kids who go unnoticed and don't get the help they need sometimes until it's too late," Mrs. Dupuis said.

"I think the event went very well," Mrs. Mitchell-Lee said. "I think the candles were able to show our audience the impact of abuse and neglect. And seeing the candelabra with the black ribbon for death shows that even in our county, it's happening.

"We see it on TV or the Internet and it doesn't hit home, but to actually come out to an event like this and see all the candles that represent what's going on in our county and state hits home."