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HomeNewsLocal newsMotorcade Shines Light on Child Abuse, Sexual Assault

Motorcade Shines Light on Child Abuse, Sexual Assault

Vehicles adorned with banners and messages of awareness, participate in a motorcade. (Source photo by Diana Dias)
Vehicles adorned with banners and messages of awareness, participate in a motorcade on Wednesday evening on St. Croix. (Source photo by Diana Dias)

The V.I. Human Services Department, Women’s Coalition of St. Croix and Family Resource Center held a motorcade Wednesday evening to shine a light on National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The motorcade began at the DC Canegata Ballpark on St. Croix and simultaneously on St. Thomas at the Emile Griffith Ball Park. On St. Croix, with the assistance of the V.I. Police Department, about 15 vehicles adorned with banners and messages of awareness shined lights of blue as they were escorted.

A V.I. Police Deparment escort leads the way to the motorcade. (Source photo by Diana Dias)
A V.I. Police Deparment escort leads the way for the motorcade. (Source photo by Diana Dias)

Prior to the motorcade, participants were provided with materials and resources offering guidance on recognizing signs of abuse and accessing support services.

“We are wearing teal for sexual assault and blue for child abuse because the motorcade is really about both,” said Clema S. Williams-Lewis, executive director of the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix.

“We have a high instance of assault in the community, and you know we just lost a child last month,” she added, referring to Ja’Qeada Isaac who lost her life on St. Thomas. Her mother, Anyah Smith, has been charged with first-degree murder.

According to data compiled in the “Kids Count USVI,” in 2023 there were 289 cases of child maltreatment in the U.S. Virgin Islands, an increase from 208 reported in 2021.

Neglect accounted for 60 percent of those reported cases, compared with 55 percent in 2021 and 46.9 percent in 2020. Physical abuse accounted for 30 percent of reported cases compared with 29 percent in 2021 and 30.4 percent in 2020. Sexual abuse accounted for 10 percent of reported cases, compared with 15 percent in 2021 and 22.7 percent in 2020.

In fiscal 2022, Human Services reported 140 children received family support and in-home services via the department’s protective services.  There were 79 children in the foster care system.

Human Services notes that it’s important to collaborate with other entities to raise awareness and advocate for the prevention of child abuse and sexual assault within the community.

“We are proud to unite with our community partners in this important initiative,” said VIDHS Assistant Commissioner Carla Benjamin. “Together, we can make a difference by standing up against child abuse and sexual assault, and by providing resources and support to those affected. This motorcade symbolizes our commitment to protecting our children and building a safer, more resilient community,” said Benjamin.

“We believe that by coming together as a community, we can create a powerful force for change,” added VIDHS Commissioner Averil George. “This motorcade is not just about raising awareness; it’s about taking a stand and actively working toward preventing child abuse and sexual assault. We urge everyone to join us in this important cause,” George said.

Anyone looking for information on the services provided by Human Services can visit  http://www.dhs.gov.vi or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/usvidhs.

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