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Child advocacy group has busy schedule ahead

ASHLAND, Ky. — A local child advocacy group has a couple upcoming events designed to raise funds and awareness for sexually abused children.

The first event that Hope’s Place in Ashland, Ky., has planned is a Family Fun Festival set on March 8. In April the group will have its annual Chocolate Extravaganza. The group’s largest fundraiser of the year.

“March is sexual assault awareness month and April is child abuse prevention month so we will be very busy over the next two months,” said Brandi Bayes, a spokesperson for Hope’s Place. “These fundraisers are crucial to our group because we don’t charge the children or families for our services.”

Bayes said statistics show one in four girls, and one in six boys will suffer some type of sexual abuse by the time they are 18 years old. She also said the vast majority of these cases go unreported, making the job that Hope’s Place does even more important.

“The statistics are staggering,” she said. “We provide comprehensive forensic medical exams, forensic interviews, mental health counseling as well as victim advocacy. All of that is vital to helping abused children.”

Community involvement is essential in helping those victimized by sexual abuse as well as helping prevent abuse from occurring altogether.

“People need to know and understand that child sexual abuse is present in our community,” Bayes said. “We all need to show relentless compassion when it comes to protecting our children. It is an epidemic and we want the community to know how to be proactive in prevention.”

Hope’s Place is a FIVCO organization meaning that it serves Boyd, Carter, Elliot, Greenup and Lawrence counties in Kentucky. However, Bayes said, the group is the closest child advocacy center for many residents of West Virginia and Ohio.

“We understand being in the Tri-State we may be closer for some of those from out of state,” she said. “So we do not turn those out of state children away. We do serve a great deal of kids from Ohio and Lawrence County in particular.”