First Lady Susan Hutchinson paid a visit to the Percy and Donna Malone Child Safety Center Monday to speak on her passion for fighting child abuse.

First Lady Susan Hutchinson paid a visit to the Percy and Donna Malone Child Safety Center Monday to speak on her passion for fighting child abuse.
“Children transcend anything else that might divide us,” said Hutchinson.
“Politics, religion, or faith, or no religion, or whatever. Children are important to every society and we are judged on how we treat the most defenseless among us and God does have a very special place in his heart for the children.”
Hutchinson said child abuse has remained under the radar for several generations. The issue has come into the public consciousness only recently.
Discussing a time when her son played soccer, Hutchinson related a story about a team member’s mother who one day confided that her father was a pedophile. Although Hutchinson had been advised as a child to be weary of strangers, this was her first unclose experience of the dangers of abuse.
“She said a little bit about the struggle was that they didn’t want to tell their mom, she and her sister. They were trying to protect their mom. They didn’t want her hurt to know what dad was doing, so they didn’t tell. So her alternative plan was that she prayed to God that her dad would die so her mom could marry a nice man. It didn’t work out that way. Her dad lived a lot longer. But somehow she found her way through life.”
Hutchinson shared that eventually married a man in college and had children.
“And it worked out so much better.”
However, the story stayed with the First Lady. Since then, she has worked to help children have a better defense against predators.
In the past, she said, children were torn apart by the system by having to repeat their traumatic stories to strangers. They would also have to go back to the environment where it happened.
“With the children’s advocacy center now, we have all those hands,” Hutchinson said, referring to the paint handprints that adorn the PDMCSC’s walls. “We have all those hands in there when children stepped forward and said what needed to be said. They were so brave to place their hand there. ‘I did it. I told. These people here believe me and they care about me. They didn’t think I was a bad person. They didn’t blame me. They didn’t question me that I was telling them the truth. They did all these nice things for me. These other people came and they rescued me.’ Some people here in the room gave them a safe community through foster care. To give them a safe landing, and that warmth, and that helped rebuild a relationship. We all need a relationship. That’s the reason we have family.”
At this point in the speech, audience members began to cry.
“As sad as all of that is, I want you to be assured that what we’re doing here is not just this moment in time. It’s not just until the kids get to eighteen. What we’re doing now, we’re redirecting their future. The outcome. You’re getting them back on the path that God always meant for them. It may have to be a reconfiguration, but it gets them back on the right path because these things unattended does not have a good outcome, emotionally, maybe in life, they may die, or they may act out on other children, they can become depressed, they can shut down, be bullies, or be complacent and be taken advantage of on into their adulthood. They get more likely to end up in prison, dysfunctional, unhealthy, to a shortened expectancy of life. So you’re doing more. You are helping the whole lifetime of this child. So it’s a marvelous work that we do.”
Hutchinson thanked the center before handing the podium over to Executive Director Christa Neal.
“We have served close to three hundred and fifty kiddos in this center and their non-offending caregivers. Three hundred and fifty kids of the worst of the worst cases in our small area. That’s huge. I don’t know what I expected but I did not expect that so I am very grateful that we’ve been able to do that," said Neal who also discussed children’s own possible lack of awareness as to what may be happening to them.
“We have to also empower kids to tell, empower those who are caring for them to also tell.”
Earlier in the program, Sen. Percy Malone addressed how the center came into existence.
Malone shared it came from seeing a photo of a baby with cigarette burns on its face. The image brought Malone to tears. Malone decided to take action once he learned the infant had been placed back into the custody of its family.
“I started on this path my first day in the legislature.”
Since then, Malone has worked to further raise nationwide awareness on family issues.
“We have to rebuild the family, but don’t put a child back in a family, sometimes even with grandparents, because grandparents would not believe that their child would let something like that to happen. We must take care of our children.”
Addressing Hutchinson, Malone stressed the importance of preventing child abuse supersedes partisanship.
“Children are not Republicans, Democrats, Independent, Communists, Libertarians. They’re God’s creation and we must threat them like that," said Malone.
Malone next thanked his wife Donna for helping in the journey.
“She was the lead to help me understand and read and do research on this issue because I didn’t have it in my family," said Malone, who then implored the community to assist in raising money for the cause.
“The First Lady is doing all she can do,” said Malone. “I am so very proud of her. It is so wonderful. She didn’t get into this for political reasons, she didn’t get into this after she became the First Lady. The First Lady is my hero. She’s walking the talk and making sure that her influence as First Lady and her passion for taking care of these children is shared across the state.," said Malone.