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CASA GRANDE — Throughout April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Month, and Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 18 to 24, advocates are working to raise awareness of issues that impact the lives of thousands of Pinal County residents.

In Pinal County, there were more than 3,352 reports of child abuse in 2020 and 400 cases in which children were removed from their home, and advocates with the Pinal County Interagency Council to End Child Abuse are collaborating with various local agencies to focus on prevention.

“The Pinal County Interagency Council to End Child Abuse is collaborating with Against Abuse Inc., CAHRA (Community Action Human Resources Agency), the Casa Grande Alliance, First Things First and the University of Arizona’s Pinal County Cooperative Extension to provide virtual presentations focusing on prevention,” said Against Abuse Executive Director Pat Griffen. “The remaining presentations will be available statewide.”

As part of the effort, Casa Grande Alliance will offer the following seminars:

  • “Bring the Protective Factors Framework to Life in Your Work,” led by Alfredo Gonzalez and Amy Potchen on April 21.
  • “Adverse Childhood Experiences, what everyone needs to know,” led by Bob Shogren on April 28.

“The council is working through First Things First and Against Abuse Inc. to disseminate care kits filled with an abundance of activities, toys and blankets,” Griffen said. “The care kits are being provided to law enforcement in Pinal County for when they encounter children who are experiencing the worst trauma of their young lives.”

To observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Against Abuse is providing giveaways and resource information to health care providers, law enforcement, schools and gyms throughout Pinal County.

“Victims come to us in a number of ways,” said Maria-Elena Ochoa, deputy director of Against Abuse. “They come to us from the hospital, police departments, PCSO (Pinal County Sheriff’s Office), family advocacy centers and on their own.”

In Arizona, an estimated one in two women, one in four men and one in two transgender individuals have experienced sexual violence at some point, Ochoa said.

As well, one in four girls and one in six boys have experienced child sexual abuse.

“In 80 to 85% of the cases, the victims know their perpetrator,” Ochoa said.

In 2020, officials with the Casa Grande Police Department responded to 134 calls for sexual assault and Against Abuse dedicated more than 1,300 hours of services and support to 176 victims of sexual assault, she said.

To observe Victims’ Rights Week, Against Abuse and the Police Department will team up to shed some light on the issue.

Against Abuse is working with Casa Grande city officials to have April 18 to 24 declared Victims’ Rights Week in an official city proclamation.

Extra training will be provided to law enforcement and First Things First will offer giveaways and resource information directly to families, Ochoa said.

“Another exciting way we are sharing important Child Abuse Prevention, Sexual Assault Awareness and Victims’ Rights awareness information is by featuring it on television screens in a variety of businesses’ lobbies and waiting rooms throughout Pinal County,” Ochoa said.

Through the television outreach effort, Ochoa believes as many as 47,000 people may see the Against Abuse message.

“It is an amazing opportunity to raise awareness on extremely important topics while (people) are waiting,” she said.

Those who wish to help Against Abuse Inc. may contact Ochoa at 520-836-1239.

Against Abuse has provided social services in Pinal County since 1981. It is a private, nonprofit organization that helps individuals and the community better understand the nature and effects of family violence.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.