BEND, Ore. - April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. KIDS Center and MountainStar Relief Nursery are coming together to get the community talking about and helping tackle the difficult topic of child abuse.
A local woman, Sally Lemos, was sexually abused when she was 3 years old by a family member. Her abuse continued for nine years. Today, she is a therapist for kids who have gone through abuse.
Lemos talked about her journey from then to now on Monday with NewsChannel 21.
"I think people who knew me when I was young and knew my family, I know a lot of times they were shocked" when they learned what had occurred, she said. "There were not a lot of outward signs until the eating disorder, when I lost so much weight so rapidly."
During the 1970s, there wasn't a lot of help for people in Lemos's position. In fact, the topic of child abuse was hidden in the dark.
These days, there's much more help for and awareness of the issues, You may have seen blue ribbons downtown, which is all part of the Blue Ribbon Campaign, which runs throughout the month of April, helping shine light on a dark topic.
One organization taking part in the campaign, KIDS Center, helps area police and the Oregon Department of Human Services. At KIDS Center, provide therapists for both children and families, as well as medical exams for kids who were abused.
"There is no predictability about when child abuse happens or how it's disclosed," said KIDS Center Executive Director Shelly Smith. "We do know the more our community is educated and the more adults can speak up and say something or bring a child situation to the forefront, the more children we will see."
KIDS Center said in 2016, there was a 10 percent increase in child abuse cases reported in Central Oregon.
Several area organizations deal with the issues of child abuse, including MountainStar Relief Nursery, Mary's Place, Saving Grace, Healthy Families, Country Behavioral Health, COIC Family Support, Cascade Youth and Family, CASA, Deschutes County Behavioral Health, Child Welfare- DHS, Victims' Assistance, foster care programs and Family/Drug Court.
Together, the organizations are putting on events throughout the month of April:
Darkness to Light training on April 11, 10 am-1 pm, April 27, 6-9 pm, May 15 5:30-8:30 pm at Bend KIDS Center, where adults can receive tools for recognizing the signs of sexual abuse and responding to suspicions.
Spark is a conversation to examine challenges families face and the resulting impact for our community. You can sign up to be a part of that organization on mstar.org/april. There are limited spots available.
Internet Safety on April 21, 12:30-2:30 pm, May 11, 5-7 pm at Bend KIDS Center, where they will train parents and caregivers to become more aware of the dangers that exist online.
Let's Talk About It on April 18, 5-5:30 pm dinner, 5:30-7:30 pm training where participants learn what are developmentally appropriate sexual behaviors in children two to seven years old at Bend MountainStar.
There will also be tours you can take part in at KIDS Center on April 20, 5-6 pm and May 5, 12-1pm or tours at MountainStar April 12, 8-9:15 am or April 18, 4-5:15 pm.
If you are being abused or someone you know is, please reach out to one of these organizations or to the police. In the end,
Lemos tells kids to always have hope and keep going,
"It's a journey, and it takes courage, but there are people willing to work with them to give them space to be okay," she said. "They can be anything they want to be."
Learn more at: http://www.kidscenter.org