About a year ago I learned about the Dr. Bill Lewis Center for Children, a small nonprofit organization here in Fort Wayne that is impacting the lives of children who have been sexually abused. Yeah, I said children who have been sexually abused. Does that make you uncomfortable? Does it make your stomach churn? It should. It is horrifying and unimaginable. But you know what, it is real. It is a real problem that needs to be discussed and one that needs to be fixed. Don’t believe me? DId you know that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of sexual abuse? I didn’t think so. Do you know why? Because we, as a society, do not want to talk about it. That, my friends, needs to stop. Our children need to be protected.
The Bill Lewis Center for Children is a nationally accredited nonprofit organization that offers children who are victims of alleged sexual abuse a safe, neutral place to talk. A team of professionals use a standardized interview process that eliminates the need for multiple interviews of the child. The child-friendly forensic interview is watched, and recorded, by a cross-functional team made up of law enforcement, child abuse advocates, the Department of Child Services, the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Center, and someone from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. One conversation with the child keeps him or her from having to relive the trauma through multiple conversations. This one interview helps to prosecute the perpetrator because the child’s story is told once versus multiple times in which the details might change. This single interview also helps to exonerate the falsely accused. In the end, a solid, reliable testimony is obtained which can reduce the risk of future harm to child. It is estimated that the Lewis Center will conduct more than 650 child interviews this year.
As a small nonprofit, The Lewis Center relays heavily on private/corporate donations and fundraisers. This week I had the opportunity to volunteer during the Chicken for Children fundraiser. For $9, members of the community could order a half-chicken, baked potato, cole slaw, and a roll. All of the proceeds raised benefit the center. All orders were pre-ordered and a group of volunteers gathered at the Plymouth Congregational Church to put the meals together and deliver them to individuals and companies in Fort Wayne. My job was to participate in the assembly line approach to building the meal. I acted as quality control checking to see if each meal was complete before being packaged and prepared for delivery. Just like last year, I had a great time volunteering at this event.
I am committed to doing everything in my power to help children. I accept my role as an advocate for the victims of sexual abuse. I will not be afraid to talk about it. I will not sit quietly in the shadows while our children are harmed. I will do my part no matter what the role. I hope that you, too, will stand up and take action. Our children need you!