STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - The Valley Children’s Advocacy Center held an event called “Save Jane” at Gypsy Hill Park Sunday afternoon. The goal of the event was to raise awareness of the prevalence of child abuse and provide resources to the community.
The event began at noon, and over the next six hours 3,121 names were read aloud; one name for every child in the Staunton, Augusta County, and Waynesboro community that was reported abused in 2019. For confidentiality reasons, the children’s real names could not be used so they used the names “Jane Doe” and “John Doe.”
Rebecca Simmons, Executive Director of the center, said the over three thousand names show there is a problem in the community. “That number is just too high. We need to let the community know that this exists,” Simmons said. “It’s a community-wide problem and it requires a community response.”
Children’s shoes were laid out on the park’s benches to show these are not just numbers. “These are 3,121 children in our community,” Simmons said. “These are real kids. These are shoes that they really wore. They are our children and they deserve to be protected.”
Simmons said that the number of children that were reported abused was lower in 2020 due to the pandemic, but said that doesn’t mean there was less abuse.
“Children weren’t in school as much. They’re not seeing those professionals that really are the first line of defense of keeping our children safe,” Simmons said.
Charlé Johnson with the center said their goal is to make more people aware of the issue, and to be a resource for the community to learn how they can protect children. “We want to make sure people are aware of the issue because it is something that happens and thrives in secrecy and so we need to bring it to light,” Johnson said.