Flag raised at Athol Library to mark National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Jeff Trant of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Area speaks in front of the Athol Public Library during a flag-raising ceremony for Child Abuse Prevention Month on Friday morning.

Jeff Trant of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Area speaks in front of the Athol Public Library during a flag-raising ceremony for Child Abuse Prevention Month on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Children from the Athol Area YMCA Preschool sing in front of the Athol Public Library for Child Abuse Prevention Month on Friday morning.

Children from the Athol Area YMCA Preschool sing in front of the Athol Public Library for Child Abuse Prevention Month on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Kena Vescovi of Valuing Our Children and Heather Bialecki-Canning of the North Quabbin Community Coalition speak in front of the Athol Public Library during a flag-raising ceremony for Child Abuse Prevention Month on Friday morning.

Kena Vescovi of Valuing Our Children and Heather Bialecki-Canning of the North Quabbin Community Coalition speak in front of the Athol Public Library during a flag-raising ceremony for Child Abuse Prevention Month on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 04-07-2024 5:00 PM

ATHOL – Residents, area dignitaries and community leaders gathered in front of Athol Public Library Friday morning for a flag-raising ceremony in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The event was sponsored by the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) of Franklin County and North Quabbin, the North Quabbin Community Coalition, and Valuing Our Children and included a musicla performance by students of the Athol Area YMCA Preschool.

Before the start of the ceremony, CAC Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Trant spoke on the importance of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“In Franklin County and the North Quabbin, for the past 10 years we have been recognizing this really important month through flag-raising events, both here in Athol and in Greenfield,” Trant said. “I think one of the reasons this is so important – child abuse happens in darkness, it happens in secrecy, and it’s really important that we bring attention and awareness to the issue.”

According to Trant, one in six children are victims of violent crime over the course of a year, and one in four girls and one in eight boys will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18.

“This is not just a national issue,” Trant said. “Here in Franklin County and North Quabbin, this very much is an issue that is front and center. Since we opened our doors in 2015, we have worked with more than 850 children who are victims of sexual abuse, so this very much is a local issue.”

Trant explained that, when there is a report of child abuse, the CAC works to ensure that there is a coordinated response and an investigation so the children don’t have to tell their story multiple times. The CAC, he said, works to provide timely mental health and medical services to help children heal. Much of the work is done in proactive manner so as to stop the cycle of child abuse.

“This is an issue that is very much inter-generational,” Trant said. “At the same time, one of the things that Massachusetts truly is a leader at is child sexual abuse prevention.”

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The center, according to Trant, works closely with the Massachusetts Legislative Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse to provide a systemic, primary prevention response in Franklin County and North Quabbin.

“This is a very important month to be mindful of,” state Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, told the audience, “making sure that our children in the Commonwealth are safe, and acting as their advocates when they’re not safe.”

Whipps lauded the work that the CAC, Northwest District Attorney David Sullivan, North Quabbin Community Coalition, and Valuing our Children do. The Athol Police Department, she added, “does really hard work, but tremendous work to make sure we can fight child abuse and child neglect.”

Referencing the turnout for the event, Sullivan said, “This tells us we cherish our children and we want to keep them protected. It takes a community to keep them all safe and have a healthy environment for them.”

He added that the Children’s Advocacy Center will be opening a new facility near the Athol-Orange line “to make sure North Quabbin has the structure, the people and the facilities to help families and children.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.