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giovedì 20 aprile 2017
Enough Abuse Campaign
Dr. Jeanine Ward was 5 years old when she was sexually abused by the man who lived across the street from her Quincy, Massachusetts, home. She would be an adult, and an emergency room doctor, before the memories of that time came flooding back five years ago.
“People would say to me, how can you not remember that? I was surprised I’d buried it all. I was a workaholic, that’s how I dealt with it,” she said. After she remembered, she called a childhood friend and asked, “Were you abused by him, too?” That woman took a dive into heroin and alcohol before finding her way out, and is now working toward becoming a counselor.
The man still lives across the street, although the statute of limitations for her to bring charges has long since run out. But once it became clear what had happened, “I told everyone in the neighborhood. If something happened to a little kid because I didn’t say anything, I couldn’t live with that burden,” she said.
She also became actively involved in a Massachusetts program called theEnough Abuse Campaign, which aims to raise awareness of child sexual abuse through education, community awareness and legislative outreach. And now that she works at York Hospital, she is working to bring that model to York. An organizing meeting sponsored by York Hospital and the York Police Department and open to the public will be held Friday, April 28, at the library.
“This is my therapy,” said Ward, who became a trainer as part of her work with the campaign. “At least I can do something to help someone else. It helps me to help someone.”
Ward is being joined in this effort by two other women: York police officer Jamie Rooney, the school resource officer at York Middle School; and Kara DioGuardi, a Grammy-nominated music producer and songwriter who was a former judge on”American Idol” and lives in York. The three share the painful memory of child sexual abuse. For DioGuardi, it was child on child abuse, the son of her mother’s best friend. For Rooney, who grew up in a highly dysfunctional household, it was “Uncle Bobby” who babysat and then again when she was 12, it was the father of a friend.
Rooney discussed these incidents in her book, “Black to Blue,” and said after it was published, “a couple of girls reached out to me. They knew I was the real deal. Since then, I’ve heard several reports of things that have happened in the past — to both kids and adults. They thanked me for sharing my story.”
Rooney said more than 18,000 cases of child sexual abuse are reported in Maine each year. And Ward wonders how many cases go unreported. “I wonder if someone said to me when I was young, ‘Don’t have someone touch you there,’ it would have made a difference. I was raised to do what adults tell you to do. So I did. If we don’t talk about it, it’s buried. That’s a grooming tactic that abusers use.”
The Enough Abuse Campaign currently works in half a dozen states, and is a community-based program that works to build local partnerships of citizens and professionals; provides comprehensive training for vetted volunteers who then provide free education to parents, children and school personnel; works to help schools strengthen existing governmental and school policies; and educates people about legislative action that they can work to support.
Jetta Bernier, the director of MassKids, which created the Enough Abuse Campaign, will be in York April 28 to explain the program. She called the campaign “a citizen-based movement. We’re not trying to compete with existing programs like crisis centers. We’re trying to complement them. And it begins in the community. Citizens can do a lot.”
DioGuardi, who is involved at both the state and national level in strengthening child sexual abuse measures, said she has long known Bernier and supported the work of the Enough Abuse Campaign. When Bernier put her in touch with Ward and Rooney, she was struck by the fact that “here are three different women, all in very different professions, all working for the same cause.”
Together, she said, they want to “break open the walls of silence and engage the community. This is a first step, making sure there is awareness around this issue and starting a dialogue,” she said. “This is a hard subject, but we can start discussing it and saying that it’s okay to speak about it.”
Ward said the April 28 meeting is intended as an initial discussion of the Enough Abuse Campaign. She said it may be that at the end of the meeting the community may want to go in a different direction, “and that’s OK. I know this program and I feel it can be successful. The important thing is that we hold forum and start the discussion.”
Eventually, she said, she’d like to see this model incorporated in other communities in York County, and key stakeholders from area communities have been invited to attend the forum.
Inaugural meeting to discuss child sexual abuse and the Enough Abuse Campaign model will be held at April 28 at 1 p.m. at the library. York Hospital President Jud Knox and York Police Chief Douglas Bracy are sponsoring the event. School and town leaders in York, Kittery and Wells were invited. The public is also invited but is asked to RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.