Community members, organizations, students, attorneys, first responders and other advocates came together Thursday afternoon to support the annual Stop the Silence Rally at the Stephenville Cowboy Capital Plaza.

Stop the Silence is an effort to raise awareness against child abuse, sexual assault and other violent crimes.

Attendees lined Washington Street chanting with signs to kick off the event followed by guest speakers, which included Anthony Svajda, Pastor at Harvey Baptist Church; District Attorney Alan Nash; Stephenville Mayor Kenny Weldon; District Judge Jason Cashon; Erath County Sheriff Matt Coates and others.

“If you know of some violent act that is happening and do nothing about it, it is a sin,” Svajda said. “I want to not only tell you that we need to stand up for what is right, but that we need to get right with God as a people.”

Nash took the stage giving a powerful speech about statistics and the effects of violent crime.

“Statistics do not show us the effects violent crime has on the individual, the family and the community. There is no number that is acceptable when it comes to violent crime and we are here to stand with everyone affected by violence,” Nash said. “We in law enforcement must set an example for people of all ages. We must let everyone, including abusers and their enablers, understand this: We will not falter in pursuing, prosecuting and punishing the violent.”

Stephenville High School art students also had Stop the Silence flags they created on display with a vote on the best flag taking place on the event’s Facebook page (Erath Stop the Silence). The winning flag will be the design for next year’s Stop the Silence T-shirts. 

Several area organizations had booths set up with information about services and Tarleton State University students, including the TexAnn basketball team came out to show their support and help with the cause.

“The City of Stephenville and Erath County have dedicated individuals and organizations who work daily to counter the problems and provide resources to victims of violence, child abuse and neglect, and sexual assault,” Weldon said.