Rallying against child abuse

Published 9:34 am Tuesday, April 14, 2009

JACKSON — Denise Fleetwood may be just one in 200,000 North Carolinians working to prevent child abuse, but her effort is taking shape in Northampton County.

Recently, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners approved a proclamation designating April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The Conway Town Council also approved the same measure in support of the endeavor.

In Fleetwood’s hometown of Conway, blue ribbons abound and a marquee sign just off Main Street informs passersby of the cause.

During this month, Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina promotes “The Blue Ribbon for Kids” campaign, which encourages people to wear or display a blue ribbon in support of children and families.

“As a member and an advocate, my goal is to bring more awareness to our community,” she said. “Raising children is the hardest thing and at this time people are losing their jobs…I’m really trying to be a voice for the group.”

Fleetwood said to date more than 100 blue ribbons have been given out in the area for the effort.

Fleetwood said the statistics on abuse are staggering.

Prevent Child Abuse NC reports each year in the state, more than 100,000 children are assessed for maltreatment. In 2005, the organization reports 37 children died from child abuse homicide.

Fleetwood said one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused. She added nine out of 10 children that are sexually abused will never report it.

In 2005, Fleetwood began her effort with the organization that works to prevent child abuse by providing resources to families.

Fleetwood said she started the effort simply for her love of children. A graduate of East Carolina University, she taught school in Northampton County for five years before opening her own business, Regional In-Home Heath Care Inc. located in Conway.

Though her business focuses on providing for the elderly, Fleetwood said her work with the organization has helped her keep that connection with children.

In the beginning, she distributed brochures and ribbons to her employees. Fleetwood has also made literature available to families in the office.

In the past year, Fleetwood said she’s devoted a lot more time to the organization. She is now an individual member and her business a corporate organization member of Prevent Child Abuse NC.

As a member of Prevent Child Abuse NC, Fleetwood promotes awareness in the community, provides resources to families and make herself available to help.

Fleetwood said unlike most organizations that deal with the aftermath of abuse, Prevent Child Abuse NC works to stop abuse before it happens.

“There are a lot of (organizations) across the state, but not in the area,” she said.

Fleetwood would like to expand her advocacy outside of the county, but currently is focusing her efforts on Northampton.

Those interested in learning more about Prevent Child Abuse NC or the “Blue Ribbon for Kids” campaign can visit www.preventchildabusenc.org.