In 2017, Harmony House served more than 100 additional children and non-offending family members than in the previous year.
In their Wheeling office alone, they conducted 73 more forensic interviews.
Why such an increase?
Executive Director Debra Hawkins says it is not that there are more abusers or crimes against children happening, it is because Harmony House has increased their efforts to raise awareness.
“In West Virginia alone, we provided education and awareness to over 5,000 people. So all totaled, we provided almost 8,000 people with education and awareness throughout the year of 2017,” said Hawkins.
The mission of Harmony House is to reduce the effects of abuse on children.
They take referrals from Child Protective Services, law enforcement, and other professionals and provide children and families with the resources they need to heal.
“We are the safe people. We are the neutral third party, and we are here for the children and the families. We’re here to hear their stories and understand what may or may not have happened to them, how it impacted them, and how that trauma affected them so that we can get them the proper treatment,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins says although their awareness efforts appear to be working, they want people to remember to always keep their eyes open for signs of abuse.
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.
“It’s really important if you see something to say something. It’s better to report than not say anything because that’s going to get a child help as quickly as they possibly can get it. It may turn out to be nothing, but if it’s something and you say nothing, imagine the impact that is going to have on you if you were the first person to see the signs and you said nothing,” said Hawkins.
If you would like more information about the services Harmony House provides, you can call the Wheeling office at 304-230-2205 or the Belmont County office at 740-695-0812.