DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Recent headlines of child abuse made a ceremony in Dallas even more impactful today.
Dozens gathered on the steps of the Old Red Courthouse to recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month, drawing awareness to the growing epidemic of child abuse and the critical need for prevention.
"James, one month. Jaden 3 years. Lindsay, 2 years. Brianna, 1 year…"
Their names were read one by one, victims of child abuse whose lives were remembered by city officials, choirs, local personalities, and advocates today. Behind them 30 t-shirts waved in the breeze, each representing a life lost.
Karla Aguilar could have been another statistic.
"I grew up in an abusive home. I thought it was normal. I spoke up at 8th grade. No one believed me," explained Aguilar.
Instead, she chose to stand up and tell a teacher about the mental, physical, and sexual abuse happening at home.
"Back in high school I went to school with bruises, black eyes and a busted lip. One of my professors called CPS, and that day CPS workers came and picked me up from school."
Today Aguilar is studying forensic science at UT-Arlington and continues to take a stand for other victims of abuse -- speaking at Child Abuse Prevention events like this one in Dallas County, to raise awareness of the growing problem.
"Last year we had a 39 percent increase in child abuse, with over 5000 reported cases of child abuse in Dallas alone," explained Jennifer Sampson, President and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. "The key to prevention is education."
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas supports prevention programs and organizations that intervene when neglect and abuse occurs.
Karla Aguilar believes getting the word out is the first step to helping more victims help themselves.
"Regardless of what you're going through, you have to speak up and make it happen for yourself," said Aguilar. "If you don't do it for yourself, no one else will."
Today's event was sponsored by member agencies of the Child Abuse Prevention Coalition, including United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Child Abuse Prevention Center, Dallas CASA, Dallas Children's Advocacy Center, Dallas County Child Welfare Board, TexProtects, Greater Texas Community Partners, Northwood Republican Women, North Dallas Texas Democratic Women, the UT Arlington, School of Social Work Center for Child Welfare and others,
The event also recognizes Child Protective Services caseworkers who have worked to help keep abused and neglected children safe from further harm.
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