Bend

What an amazing experience. The day and a half in Bend, Oregon, was packed. Elaine Knobbs (Prevention Director at the KIDs Center) and I were at the TV studio by 6:30 on Tuesday for an appearance on Good Morning Central Oregon with Kristi Miller.

Elaine and Shellie Campbell lined up interviews on just about all the radio and TV stations in Central Oregon. Elaine told the story of bringing Darkness to Light (D2L) to the Tri County area and I talked about Strong at the Heart and why we were doing the event together at the library that night—a book discussion and launch for D2L.

Our message was clear: Child sexual abuse is at epidemic proportions in our country. Each one of us can do something to change this. Strong at the Heart shows the healing that can happen when survivors have knowledgeable support from family, friends, or community. Darkness to Light prepares us all to prevent and to respond appropriately to child sexual abuse.

In venue after venue, the individual stories in Strong at the Heart made the message concrete. Sheena’s friends helping her. Tammy telling her sister and aunt. Jonathan’s teacher acting on her suspicions that something was wrong and, later, Jonathan finding survivors like himself in SNAP. Akaya’s beautiful face graced the posters and announcements in the newspaper.

At 4:30 there was snow piling up on the road outside the hotel. I talked with KIDs Center director, Bob Smitt. The library staff were talking about calling off the event and going home. It looked like a Big Snow.

But the girls at Meadowlark, the local residential treatment facility, had earned the right to come to hear me talk. A group of high students, working on a film about teen-on-teen sexual violence, were coming from a town an hour’s drive away. Bob worked his magic with the library staff and we were on. The question was, would anyone make it through the snow to see us?

They did. The room was packed. Not only with the teens and their teachers and counselors, but with DHS workers, Darkness to Light facilitators, the town pediatrician, the chief of police, a lot of people who had heard about the event from radio, TV, and newspapers, and a whole group of women from Warm Springs Reservation who had driven an hour and a half to get there.

I began by telling people about my experience in a Darkness to Light training that very day (more about that later), then turned to the book. Projecting the photos—and others I’d taken working on it—on the wall behind me gave the audience a visual way into each story.

Because the event was the launch of D2L for the area, I focused my comments on the places in the stories where community, family, and friends played an important role—or failed to.

It was such a pleasure to talk with this attentive group about healing in community. I told the story of Hollow Water and how the people there turned to their traditional Ojibway oral history as well as to modern psychology to figure out how to deal with child sexual abuse within their tribe. The photographs from Smith College showed students educating their own community through tee shirt displays much like the one in the room with us.

People had such wonderful questions. It was a great to have a full hour and be able to answer in depth, giving the back story on some of the interviews.

One teen asked, “Were you ever sad doing this?” I started to give my usual answer (when people say, “Isn’t this a sad thing to write about!”) about being inspired by these stories of strength. But her question was deeper. “Yes. There were times in editing when I did feel overwhelmed by the cruelty that so many of us face as kids, sad at how people can hurt each other.” I thought some more. “With each one of these interviews there was a point where both of us teared up. It is a hard thing for all of us.”

Hard, but so good to have a plan, a response, and hope. So good to be working with others to change the “business as usual” way we’ve done things, which has left children and survivors vulnerable and alone. It doesn’t have to be that way. I saw real change that day during the D2L workshop, and saw how media and child advocates and school kids can work together.

I flew out the next morning feeling up lifted and sure. Things are going to be different in the Tri-County area of Oregon because enough good people care enough to take action. And they have a good, solid plan.

By |2006-02-08T15:55:48+00:00February 8th, 2006|D2L, events|0 Comments

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