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Hawkins raises awareness

Kelly Hawkins always enjoys speaking to groups like the Troy Rotary Club she addressed Tuesday.

For one, it gives her a chance to come back to her hometown. But more importantly, it gives her an opportunity to spread awareness about what she has dedicated her life to doing.

Hawkins, director of the Family Protection Unit for the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, works to prosecute physical and sexual abuse crimes against children.

Currently, she is working on 60 cases, all but one involving sex crimes against youth.

It’s a job she said many don’t quite understand.

“When I tell people what I do, they usually get quiet. No one understands the issues of sex crimes against children,” Hawkins said. “It does raise awareness (when I come to groups like this) because the more we talk about it, the more comfortable we become with it and the closer we are to finding a solution.”

Hawkins, daughter of Jack and Janice Hawkins, said people often wonder what sparked her passion in the fight against child abuse, since she, of course, wasn’t abused herself.

“I had a childhood unlike most people because I was so treasured,” Hawkins said. “When I was 15 I worked for Mrs. Vicki Schmidt at the children’s learning center. I knew nothing about child abuse.

“But there was one of those kids who needed more attention than the rest. And when her dad came to pick her up everyday, she always hid, and she’d ask me, ‘Ms. Kelly, can I go home with you today?’

The more I watched her, the more I realized she was going home everyday to be abused.”

It was because Hawkins wasn’t ever able to help that little girl, she decided what her career path would be.

“That’s when I committed my life to this purpose. I will never again be the cause of someone having to go home to someone who abuses them,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said she takes her work very seriously, remembering those she fights for are not just another statistic but are children.

And, part of her work consists of making people aware of how even those who don’t prosecute crimes can help.

“It happens in Troy, in Birmingham, in Tuscaloosa. It happens everywhere,” Hawkins said.

“I’ve had cases against doctors, lawyers, pastors, youth pastors — not one of your neighbors is immune to this.

“Whether you realize it or not, we are all a part of this problem. You don’t know the difference you can make.

“You may not be doing my job, but there’s something you can all do.”

The Troy Rotary Club also discussed it will be handing out dictionaries to Troy Elementary School students Friday at 10 a.m. This is part of the organization’s annual giving to the community.