The Charger Blog

Chargers Highlight Importance of Child Abuse Prevention and Services

Several Chargers recently helped organize and participated in a “Pinwheels for Prevention” event at the University, bringing together professionals in a variety of fields who are committed to protecting children.

April 27, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

A crowd gathers to listen to a speaker outside.
Pinwheels for Prevention brought together members of the University and local communities to discuss child abuse prevention and awareness.

Paige Garrett ’24 began working with the South Central Child Advocacy Center at the beginning of the Spring semester as part of her internship. While learning about addressing child abuse, she also began planning an important event to raise awareness of child abuse and the importance of prevention.

As part of their internships, Garrett and her classmate Brianna Oakley ’23, both psychology majors, have been working with the Yale Child Sexual Abuse Clinic, which is part of the multidisciplinary team of agencies that works with the Center. Garrett says her experience has helped her to fully grasp what, exactly, child abuse is, as well as the severity of the problem.

Garrett helped organize and took part in the Center’s 9th annual Pinwheels for Prevention, an event held recently in the University’s Bixler/Gerber Quad. Held every April as part of Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month, the event was organized to encourage an important conversation about the importance of keeping kids safe.

“Child abuse needs to be talked about,” said Garrett. “Even though it’s traumatic and very sensitive, and it’s important to discuss it, to break the stigma.”

Harley DeMatties ’22 speaks during the event.
Harley DeMatties ’22 speaks during the event.
'The importance of prevention’

The event brought together local professionals who are committed to addressing and preventing child abuse, including nonprofit leaders, law enforcement officers, and several Chargers. The many pinwheels taped to tables at the event represented the support the Center provides to the community. Covering nearly four dozen towns in Connecticut, the Center offers a variety of services, including forensic interviews and advocacy, at no cost to clients. It has provided services for more than 350 children in the past year.

Garrett and Oakley have been working to strengthen the Center’s connections to the local community – including the University community. Before the event, they asked several organizations on campus about the impact of child abuse. They then created posters that featured the responses from groups such as Phi Sigma Sigma and the Chargers field hockey team.

“Bringing that message to the University community and engaging them on the importance of prevention goes a long way,” said Oakley. “Learning about these important programs and advocating for kids has grown my perspective on abuse, and now I understand its complexity.”

Left to right: Paige Garrett ’24, Brianna Oakley ’23, and Harley DeMatties ’22
Left to right: Paige Garrett ’24, Brianna Oakley ’23, and Harley DeMatties ’22
‘No work more fulfilling and rewarding’

During the event, an attorney read a statement from a child who was abused sexually by a family member who the system was able to help. Now an adult, that individual is now thriving, the attorney said.

Recognizing those who have helped impacted children was an important focus of the event. Several professionals dedicated to protecting children received awards – including Harley DeMatties ’22, a victim advocate at the Rape Crisis Center of Milford.

“This award means the world to me,” she said. “There’s no better honor, especially since I was recognized by my peers. It takes a village to prevent child abuse, and I’m honored to be a part of this team. It means a lot.”

DeMatties, who spoke as part of the event at her alma mater, believes in her work and the Rape Crisis Center of Milford’s ability to make a meaningful impact. As a Charger, she was in Garrett’s and Oakley’s shoes as an intern, and she also volunteered at the Center before joining its staff. She says that, as a psychology major at the University, she was well prepared for her career.

“There’s no work more fulfilling and rewarding than violence prevention of any kind,” she said. “We follow clients from beginning to end, and it’s great to see the direct results and impact of our work.”

Posters with child abuse prevention and awareness messages from University organizations were featured at the event.
Posters with child abuse prevention and awareness messages from University organizations were featured at the event.