WICHITA COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — Local agencies are working very hard to get the message out there early about Child Abuse Prevention Month.
It’s work that lines up perfectly with Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie’s main priority for his past 20 years with the county.
“We try to take this month wearing blue, as I have on, is a symbol that you’re aware of it and if people just do that and be aware, there’d be a great deal gained,” Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom said.
The month of April raises awareness for an ongoing issue year-round, while those in this line of work who see the abuse and neglect every day hope the spotlight on this issue, shines brighter.
“For other people, I just think the details sometimes are horrific for them, or just the numbers… I mean 565 confirmed victims of abuse and neglect in our county just for last year, that’s a lot,” Teen Emergency Shelter Program Director Lisa Choate said. “And our workers are doing a good job investigating and trying to get these kids safe, but there are too many kids being abused and neglected in our community.”
An eye-popping number that many around Wichita County fight to reduce every day, including District Attorney John Gillespie and his entire office.
“Because this is a priority issue with Mr. Gillespie it’s getting the type of awareness and commitment out of law enforcement that we need,” Gossom said.
But as his role has evolved in his 20 years with the county, Gillespie’s role as an advocate for abused children has only grown.
“I think my hair was dark when I came back to work at the DA’s office and finding my niche at being a voice for children that haven’t had anyone speak up for them has been the greatest privilege of my career,” Gillespie said.
Especially once you get a peek behind the curtain and see the positive impact you can make in a kid’s life who really needs it.
“I still remember some of my first child sexual abuse cases. You just never forget working with children that have been violated in the worst ways possible and learning how to trial those cases, and now I get to lead an office and be in court fighting for kids like this is a tremendous privilege and a great honor,” Gillespie said.
With many local resources in Texoma, like Choate and the Teen Emergency Shelter through the Children’s Aid Society, there are many ways to get involved beyond keeping your eyes and ears open.
“So many people want to do something but don’t know what to do. And, it can be something little like baking dinner for a foster parent, or maybe you want to do more to be involved in a child’s life, go out and volunteer for CASA, be an advocate for children, we have several agencies that license foster parents, or perhaps you don’t want to do something full time, but you just want to provide respite, give a break to those foster parents or a child who may need a little something extra,” Coate said.
Sticking up for those who need it most not just this month, but every day.
Be on the lookout for more information on the Party For Prevention in Downtown Wichita Falls coming up April 23, hosted by CAPS, or Child Abuse Prevention.