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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Grandparents play key role in spotting signs of child abuse

Oct 03, 2016 11:46AM ● By Kathy Applebee

Ricky (name and some circumstances changed to protect the victims) moved from one friend’s or relative’s home to another with his great-aunt, who he called “Mom.” When the women went panhandling, 8-year-old Ricky was left in the care of the man who would sexually assault him. Despite being threatened with harm if he told, Ricky confided in a visiting grandfather after the man started molesting the girl who lived next door.

Child abuse, particularly sexual abuse, is an unpleasant topic at best. However, on the Western Slope, there is hope for the more than 300 children who are subjected to sexual or physical abuse each year. Fortunately, Ricky’s story ends on a brighter note.

Ricky was taken to the Western Slope Center for Children (WSCC). Located at 259 Grand Ave. in Grand Junction, this child advocacy center is dedicated to reducing the trauma of abuse and neglect for children and their non-offending family members and caregivers.

Ricky described to the investigator the horrors of what happened to him and to the girl. The WSCC provided Ricky and his grandfather with therapeutic and supportive services that extended through a trial at which Ricky testified.

The offender received a 200-year prison sentence. Ricky survived and with continuing support will learn healthy coping skills and how to trust again.

But what if the grandfather had not been informed, caring and concerned?

Grandparents and other adults involved with youngsters on a regular basis can make a significant contribution in their lives, sometimes with words of encouragement or a hug or by listening. At other times, their intervention can save a life.

Last year, the WSCC provided direct, supportive services to 283 girls and 141 boys and their non-offending family members. An additional 515 secondary victims were served. The WSCC coordinates with multiple agencies, such as the police, district attorney’s office and medical examiners, so children can tell what happened to them in a neutral, child-friendly facility.

What can grandparents and seniors involved with children do to help?

First, establish a positive, loving relationship with those children. Be a good listener. If abuse should occur, the child you care about is more likely to confide in you.

In addition, learning the facts, minimizing opportunity, talking about abuse, recognizing the signs and reacting responsibly greatly reduce the potential for a child you care about to come to harm.

If you suspect abuse, or a child tells you about it, immediately call 242-1211. The calls are anonymous. You cannot get into trouble for making a report that turns out to be unfounded, if you had good intentions.

To learn more about the signs of abuse, Jody Brandon with the WSCC suggests attending a free prevention training program called Stewards of Children. The next two are scheduled from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. October 4 and November 15.

WSCC recently experienced a $25,000 funding cut, and hopes that fundraisers like the interactive murder mystery dinner theater donated by Mesa Murder Mysteries on October 15 at the Courtyard Marriot will help bridge the gap.

For more information on the dinner theater or the Stewards of Children programs, call 245-3788.