To the editor:

This year's Walk a Mile March to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence, a fundraiser for the Elizabeth Freeman Center, is taking place virtually through Sept. 18. I would like to share with your readers why my family will be walking for our seventh consecutive year.

We all know that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, with the threat of COVID-19 looming over the world, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, millions grieving those losses and millions more having lost their jobs and struggling every day to get by. The nation shut down and we were quarantined in our homes for months.

For our family, like many others, home is considered a safe space, free from abuse, neglect, domestic violence or sexual assault, where our children have access to food, warmth and shelter. During this pandemic, we have had all we needed, or so we thought. What was missing was access to the outside world; our children lacked access to and interaction with their loving and encouraging teachers, their peers and everyone who normally makes them feel like part of our larger community.

Even in our safe home, we have moments of sadness and worry, and feelings of isolation and depression. Our 8-year-old daughter is typically an outgoing, happy and social little girl, but she is really struggling right now, deeply missing her friends and classmates. There are days when she seems fine, but others when she sleeps a lot and isolates herself in her room. There are moments when she is sad and weepy, and nights that she does not sleep well. There are times when her heart is racing, but with no physiological explanation. Luckily, we recognized these signs and symptoms early on, and have been able to seek help for her.

We know that many children and families in our community and beyond are not as fortunate as we are, nor do they have access to the help that is available. We know that many children's health and safety depends on the resources, social interactions and daily visibility that are offered in school, and that often the evidence of abuse in families is not being noticed and reported right now. That is one reason why, this year, it is more important than ever to raise money for the Elizabeth Freeman Center, so they can continue to provide help and support to those in our community who might not otherwise have access to it.

Colin Ovitsky,