Speaker from Georgia addresses Shelby County, San Augustine educators

Kevin McNeil, from DeKalb County and an Atlanta SVU Detective, spoke to educators from five Shelby County school districts – Center, Excelsior, Shelbyville, Tenaha, and Timpson – and San Augustine ISD about child abuse and the horrific impact abuse has on a child’s life.

Mr. McNeil told a true tale of a 12-year boy who had been bullied at school and trained after school with a friend who had weights. He wanted to become strong enough to defend himself from his bullies. His curfew to be home was to be home before dark. However, one day he lost track of time and was late going home. He took a shortcut through the football stadium where he was accosted by a man who was a stranger to him. Kevin said the boy was enticed by the man who said he had some weights which were under the bleachers, and he would give some to the boy if he would help him carry them.

The 12-year old boy did go with the man to retrieve the weights, which turned out to be non-existent. The man then pummeled the boy with his fists the boy was bloody and then the man proceeded to sexually assault the boy. When the man began to strangle the boy, the boy fought back and managed to escape and run home. Kevin then revealed that the 12-year old boy was himself.

The event impacted Kevin in many ways. He had such anger inside that he became violent and a troublemaker. Having been an A and B student, his grades fell. In high school, he maintained a C-grade-average, because he wanted to keep playing sports, which he said became his escape from the turmoil inside.

A closing quote from Kevin was, “Our responsibility is to bring forth a child’s potential; abuse interferes with that potential.

The program was sponsored by the Shelby County Child Advocacy Center (SCCAC). Denise Merriman, Executive Director of SCCAC, introduced and closed the program. Emilee Elliott, CHS student, gave the opening prayer, and Shelby County District Attorney Stephen Shires introduced the speaker, Kevin McNeil.

A brochure from SCCAC, which was given to attendees, lists the following signs of child abuse: Unexplained injuries; Changes in behavior; Returning to earlier behaviors; Fear of certain places or people; Changes in eating; Changes in sleeping; Changes in school performance and attendance; Lack of personal care or hygiene; Risk-taking behaviors; and Inappropriate sexual behaviors.