It is unimaginable to consider that anyone would intentionally harm a child. And yet people do harm children. It happens right here in our town, and in 90% of the local reports it is someone that the child knew, likely someone that other adults in their lives seem to trust. The victim must feel so confused. To whom should they turn for protection? How can they take that step we all hope they will—reporting the abuse? The fear must be overwhelming.
KIDS Center in Bend is a medical model child abuse intervention center providing prevention, evaluation and treatment services to children experiencing abuse. Working with therapists, law enforcement and KIDS Center staff, children are able to report abuse in a comfortable, home-like setting without having to repeat their story over and over. In addition, they also provide prevention programs and support for families. Their cornerstone in prevention is the Darkness to Light training that provides attendees tools and knowledge necessary to address and prevent abuse.
“During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, KIDS Center is teaming with MountainStar Family Nursery, a local parenting education and respite care facility for infants and toddlers, to focus on the campaign ‘Speak Up, Save a Child,’” says Robin Antonson, Director of Development and Prevention. “The primary goal of both organizations is to increase the number of community members who attend a Darkness to Light training.” They maintain that more children will be protected from abuse if more in the community are aware of the issue and can recognize the signs.
According to Kim Bohme, Prevention and Education Coordinator, “One in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they reach age 18. And this is only the reported number. It is a far higher number when you understand that most abuse goes unreported.” Yes, in your child’s classroom, at LEAST three children are likely victims of this one form of abuse.
The KIDS Center website provides this list of signs that a child may be experiencing abuse:
- Nervousness around adults or one in particular
- Aggression, passivity or over-compliance
- Sudden changes in personality
- Inability to stay awake or concentrate
- Not wanting to go home or to a particular place
- Low self-esteem
- Unexplained bruises or injuries
- Poor hygiene
But sometimes there are no signs; that’s why talking to children is so important. Antonson reports that “Many victims say if someone had just asked them if they were being hurt, they would have shared about their abuse.”
What can you do? Attend a Darkness to Light training. Dates and times for the training as well as other ways to get involved and provide support are available at KIDSCenter.org. As a community we can bring child abuse out of the shadows and, in doing so, take a big step in protecting our children. It not only takes a village to raise a child, but one that will speak up to save a child.
NUMBERS TO CALL IF YOU SUSPECT ABUSE:
541.548.9499 – Central Oregon Child Welfare
855.503.SAFE (7233) – Oregon Statewide Abuse Reporting Line
911- Law Enforcement