Vigil calls attention to child abuse, sexual assault

A small crowd amassed outside of the Kosciusko County Courthouse Thursday night for a candlelight vigil. Some of those participating were members of Guardians of the Children Michiana Chapter, a group of bikers who help and support assault victims and survivors. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.
By Jackie Gorski

WARSAW — A candlelight vigil was held Thursday night at the Kosciusko County Courthouse in Warsaw to bring awareness to child abuse and sexual assault.

The vigil was put on by Moms on a Mission.

During Thursday’s event, people were invited to speak if they wanted to and after that, they lit candles.

M.O.M. member Stephanie Puckett talked about how the organization got started.

Puckett and M.O.M. member Melissa Villa are parents of sexual abuse survivors.

M.O.M. got started when Puckett and Villa helped the Goshen Police Department help apprehend the person accused of assaulting Villa’s child. The case against the person is ongoing. Puckett said the person who assaulted her child was convicted in 2022.

Puckett said M.O.M. helps police find people accused of child abuse and sexual assault if there’s a warrant and they know about it. She said members of the organization don’t go up to the people, harass them or go up to their door, but will find people with warrants with a sexual assault charge.

Puckett said she hoped Thursday’s event brings more awareness to child abuse and sexual assault because they sometimes go hand-in-hand. She said M.O.M.’s mission “is to get all predators off the street.”

John “Alpha” Rochefort, of Guardians of the Children, said the group holds monthly meetings and events like horseback riding and bowling to help children that have been abused. He said 100% of the money they raise goes to help abused children.

Villa’s case is the first the Guardians of the Children has helped in Kosciusko County. The group is there to help children as a lot of the children don’t have a voice. A lot of the kids are afraid to stand up for what happened to them. The organization is there to share the child’s story.

He said when Guardians of the Children are involved in abuse cases, the person accused has a better chance of getting convicted and get longer prison sentences.

Villa talked about sentencing people convicted of sexual abuse.

She said the rules are different if a minor is tried in juvenile court for abuse charges. She said she thinks if someone is adult enough to hurt a child in that way, they should be adult enough to be charged in adult court.

To help draw attention to child abuse and sexual assault, M.O.M. is planning on putting on a carnival/concert fundraiser from noon to 8 p.m. May 20 at 3540 W. CR 200N, Warsaw. All proceeds will go to the Guardians of the Children Michiana Chapter. For questions, call Villa at 260-248-7885 or Puckett and 574-549-0212.