Feb. 2, 2004 — A number of local children who have suffered child abuse or have friends who have been victimized by violence, have joined with child protection advocates on St. Thomas to organize a Monday night march against child abuse.
According to Dilsa Capdeville, the executive director of the child advocacy group KidsCope, the march will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Emancipation Garden. Marchers will later proceed to Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral on Lower Kronprindsens Gade where the third annual ecumenical service for battered and abused children is set to begin at 6:30 p.m.
"KidsCope started this ecumenical service three years ago as a result of two children dying from physical abuse. We wanted to enlighten our community to bring forth the fact that children were losing their lives over this heinous crime of child abuse, child assault, and child molestation," Capdeville said Sunday.
When Capdeville approached students at Ivanna Eudora Kean and Charlotte Amalie High Schools, she said she found a willing base of supporters who volunteered to help organize the event. According to Capdeville, it was the students who said they wanted to organize a march leading up to the church.
At the service this evening, ministers from different faiths are expected to offer prayers for victims and their loved ones. Fifty lit candles, representing the estimated number of children who have died from child abuse over the past 20 years, will line the steps to the church's altar.
There will also be songs by a number of young singers and youth groups. One victim of child abuse is expected to read an essay she wrote about her experience.
As the volunteers put this year's event together, Capdeville said she heard personal stories from children who said they had friends who were raped. A group from Kean High spoke about a classmate who was stabbed to death over
the Christmas holiday.
Also expected to join the program are Jim and Celia Caroll, the parents of Jason Caroll, a student who was stabbed to death several months ago during a daylight altercation in the Charlotte Amalie shopping district.
Capdeville said she is encouraged by the willingness of the youth to support one another and seek a solution together.
"We are very concerned about what's happening to our children and we're looking forward to bringing this to our community," she said. "Now that the young people have expressed a desire to be part of the solution and to be heard, it is they who will be marching to let our community know that it is happening to us it is happening to our friends."
This year's ecumenical service is also being sponsored by the Office of the Lieutenant Governor's Child Watch Program and TV2 News.
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