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Advocacy groups holding events to speak out against abuse

Abuse can happen anywhere, even in the smaller towns of DeKalb County.

That’s a concept Holly Piefer hopes more people will understand.

Piefer, director of the Children’s Advocacy Center for the county’s Family Service Agency, said many people often consider child abuse to be a problem mostly in larger cities. But that’s not the case.

Piefer said one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18, while one in seven children will be physically abused.

“That comes to about four or five kids in every classroom [who] are being abused,” she said.

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Family Service Agency of DeKalb County has partnered with Safe Passage, which operates the county’s only rape crisis center and domestic violence shelter, to raise awareness about abuse and honor the victims affected by it.

The Family Service Agency will host Hands Around the Courthouse at noon Thursday, focusing on child abuse, while Safe Passage will march during Take Back the Night at 7 p.m. Friday for rape victims.

The public is invited to hold hands around the county courthouse and observe a moment of silence for child abuse victims on the courthouse lawn at 133 W. State St. in Sycamore.

Piefer said the demonstration brings mixed emotions. It’s a somber atmosphere, but it’s also very inspiring to see so many community members come together for the cause, she said.

“People who are at this event know the seriousness of child abuse,” she said. “And they know that victims of child abuse don’t really have a voice.”

Marj Askins of Safe Passage agreed abused victims of all ages and genders often don’t feel they can speak up.

Safe Passage holds its annual Take Back the Night rally to empower the victims of sexual assault and break the silence, she said.

The rally begins at the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 615 N. First St. in DeKalb. Participants will march to downtown DeKalb, chanting and carrying signs to support the victims of abuse.

After the march, rape survivors and their family members will share their experiences.

Marj said sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. Though women often are the victims, men are not to be left without a voice, she said.

“Men who have been victimized and men who think that this is an important issue all have a really important role to play in ending sexual violence,” she said.

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