GRAYSON COUNTY, Tex. -- Child abuse can be devastating for victims and their families, and, tragically, it happens everyday. So now to raise awareness, Grayson County Commissioners have declared April ‘Child Abuse Prevention Month'.
It may be hard to imagine the pain and fear that abuse can cause, especially when children are involved. For victims, it's a daily challenge to overcome. We spoke with one woman who's experienced that devastation firsthand who tells us why awareness is so important.
Churches are often known as safe places, but for Stephanie Faries, going to church became a nightmare when a church member who helped out with youth group began physically and sexually abusing her.
Faries says she was just 14 when it all started, and for a year, she says he threatened her life if she told anyone.
"I didn't know he was at the door, and he put a knife to my throat and told me he was going to kill my parents and my little sister, and I was going to watch, and he would then kill me. And nobody would know because he said he knew the police, he knew everyone."
But Faries overcame her fear and told her best friend. Shortly after Faries' mother discovered the secret and called police, who referred them to the Child Advocacy Center. Their staff helped her learn to cope with the trauma and deal with anxiety. Since opening in 2004, their staff has handled more than 1,500 cases.
"Of course it makes us feel good; we're the first step in that, stopping child abuse one child at a time," Bobbi Wieck at the Child Advocacy Center says.
Grayson County Commissioner Johnny Waldrip says he worked as a Texas Ranger for more than 30 years, often dealing with abused children, so raising public awareness and getting abusers off the streets is one of his top priorities.
"It’s a great feeling to be able to put away people that abuse children. Where I was stationed in Central Texas, the juries were very strong on child abuse cases. We never had a case found not guilty and the majority of cases were given life sentences."
Stephanie, now 20, says her abuser is serving a 15-year sentence, and even though it's hard, she urges any child who is being abused to speak up because there is help.
"Go to anybody that you feel most comfortable with and say something because it's worth it, it's very scary but in the long run it's very worth it, and I’m glad that I did it."
Blue ribbons were passed out at Monday morning's Commissioner's Court to increase awareness of child abuse in our area and nationwide.
If you'd like more information on preventing, check the related link below the story.