By G. Michael Dobbs
HOLYOKE – Child safety advocates gathered at City Hall on April 24 for the annual observation of Children’s Memorial Flag Day, part of the effort to combat and prevent child abuse.
Jennifer Gilburg, the associate executive director of the Greater Holyoke YMCA’s “Darkness to Light” program said adults have “no greater responsibility than the responsibility of protecting children.”
She said that one in ten children will experience sexual abuse by the age of 18. Of those abused, 20 percent will be abused before the age of eight. Ninety percent of abuse victims know their abuser. Thirty percent of the abusers are family members while the family knows 60 percent.
“This is not a stranger-danger issues. This is not a creepy person in a trench coats issue, she said.
She explained the Darkness to Light program provides training to adults on to “recognize, react and respond to child sexual abuse.” The YMCA goal is to train 1,500 in the Holyoke area. The next training session is from 6 to 8 p.m. on May 15 and the cost is $10. Preregistration at the YMCA is required and for more information contact Gilburg at 534-5631, ext. 102.
Angie Morrell, the Prevention Program coordinator for the Massachusetts Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC), said that while Holyoke is a high needs community, people may not realize how “rich” the city is in resources.
“There are many people who help,” she said.
She noted that besides the MSPCC (532-9446), help and guidance can be obtained at head Start (788-6522), Square One (536-2971), Womanshelter / Companeros (538-9717), the Family Resource Center (532-9300). The Center for Human Development (733-6624) and the Holyoke Police Department (536-6431), among others.