KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — A panel discussion on Child Abuse Awareness was held at the Lenoir County Courthouse Friday afternoon to mark the start of Child Abuse Awareness Month in April.

The event was held to inform the community on how to recognize the signs of child abuse, “know the signs, and know the signs of child abuse,” said Kinston Mayor Don Hardy.

“We have those physical, hard symptoms, [such as] unexplained or poorly explained injuries like bruises or lacerations. I think the more challenging signs are soft symptoms, that can be withdrawal or sudden change of personality including aggression,” said Dr. Joan Perry of Kinston Pediatrics.

In addition to guest speakers, the event also gave Hope Preparatory School Students the opportunity to recite their favorite poems.

Fabricio Coto is a fifth-grade student at the school and said he feels grateful to know a happy home.

“To prevent child abuse is to stop people from doing bad things to their child or harm their child physical or emotional,” Coto said. ” I have caring parents that love me and take care of me and give me food and clothes to wear and a nice home to live in and I think of all the kids that don’t have that and I pray for them as well.”

The event concluded with a proclamation from the City of Kinston, declaring April as Child Abuse Awareness Month.

Event coordinators said informational events like this one will continue to take place throughout Eastern North Carolina with the next one happening at the Greene County Courthouse on April 6 at 10 a.m.

To report concerns of child abuse, visit North Carolina Social Services by clicking here, or dial 911.