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Community vigil highlights child abuse survival

Kathy Vinzant, director of the Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse, spoke out at a vigil held in front of the court house on Sunday evening. The coalition hopes to make the vigil an annual event. Josh Davis / LTN Photo

Shirts with the names and ages of North Carolina children who died due to child abuse were strung on a clothesline across the courthouse columns on Sunday. Josh Davis / LTN Photo

Child abuse survivors stood up in front of the court house in downtown Lincolnton on Sunday night and told their stories.
“I was abused because my mamma was abused and her mamma was abused,” said Lena Bess, a board member of Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse (LCCACA).
“She taught me low self-esteem. She taught me there was no value in my life, and she also taught me early in my life to hold on to past pain.”
Survivors and supporters gathered together for the coalition’s first child abuse vigil, which will become an annual event.
On Sunday night 26 shirts were strung out across the columns of the courthouse on a clothesline.
Each shirt had the name and age of a child who died because of abuse in North Carolina in 2002.
Baby jumpers had the names of newborns who died because of hypothermia, head trauma and asphyxiation.
One shirt that would fit a 14-year-old girl had the name “Amanda” written on it.
“One of these children is a Lincoln County child. She happened to be a student of mine at G.E. Massey,” said Jane Finger, president of the LCCACA board.
“It meant a lot to me to be able to do something to honor the memory of Amanda this year.”
Rev. Franklin Lowery read every child’s name as candles were lit in their honor.
“When we read the paper, 26 deaths, it’s only a number,” said Lowrey. “Tonight we give you a name.”
The vigil included speeches, song and prayer. Throughout the evening survivors were given a chance to tell their story to the crowd.
Darrell Acock, a homeless man, talked about looking forward to going to school as a child because it was the one place he could get a meal.
“It breaks your heart when you know for some of the kids the best part of the day is when they come to school,” said Doris Little who spent 31 years working as a teacher in Lincoln County.
Kathy Vinzant, director of LCCACA, told the crowd that in 2002 there were over 900 reported cases of child abuse in Lincoln County.
Children who are abused are six times more likely to later on abuse their own children or spouses.
“This is a call to action,” said Vinzant. “We aren’t just put here. We have a mission in life.”
Many survivors talked about how they broke the cycle of abuse. They also urged others to become involved in children’s lives and help prevent more cases of abuse.
“Y’all got more chances to do something about it now than when I was in school,” said Acock.
“Take my advice. Take a chance because I wish someone was there to help me.”
For more information on LCCACA 704-736-8456by Sarah Grano

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