GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Child abuse is a topic that not many people wish to engage in conversation in, let alone, think about. But for the 250+ children annually from Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle, and Rio Blanco counties, it is fortunate that there is a dedicated team at River Bridge Regional Center, consisting of victim advocates, forensic interviewers, mental health therapists and medical providers, working hard to ease the anxieties of the child victims, help them, and their non offending family members, receive the services they need to heal.
“Many children live in abusive situations, not knowing life is any different. It’s not until they get older that they understand what happened to them was wrong” says Kat Stenquist, Program Director and forensic interviewer for River Bridge. Kat says that often cases come to River Bridge where children disclose abuse months to years after the abuse has happened.
“There are many reasons why a child may not disclose immediately. Education on the signs of abuse and abuse prevention is the best way to support children who may be the victims of abuse.” Each year, River Bridge presents to over 700 community members including: parents, educators, law enforcement, caseworkers, prosecutors, medical providers, and other mandatory reports. A mandatory reporter is required by law to report suspected situations where a child is being neglected or abused.
Through educating the community about an issue that affects our children, “we can provide support and services to negate the negative effects that child abuse can have in life – and hopefully we can put an end to child abuse altogether”. Kat also says that talking with the children that we love and care for about topics regarding body safety, touches that are okay, decency and consent and social media safety can also help prevent child abuse or cause children to tell sooner. These conversations can also help prevent problematic sexualized behaviors which have become more frequent in recent years.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and River Bridge encourages our community to show support for the children that are affected by abuse and/or neglect, support the everyday workers who engage with the children and families that need supportive services, and to educate yourself and the children you care for, about abuse prevention. Efforts to engage with the community start with planting pinwheels at the Garfield County Courthouse, downtown Glenwood Springs. The blue pinwheel is the symbol of Child Abuse Prevention Month. River Bridge will plant 271 pinwheels, one for each child they served in 2022. All are welcome to come to Veterans Memorial at the Courthouse at noon on April 1st to help plant pinwheels and receive free resources.
River Bridge is also partnering with three local arts nonprofits to provide a free arts and crafts workshop for children and families to “Create a Brighter Future”. River Bridge staff and volunteers will be on site at Bookcliff Arts Center in Rifle on April 22nd, The Art Base in Basalt on April 23rd, and The Carbondale Launchpad on April 30th. Free education and resources to help talk with your children about abuse prevention and unsafe situations will be provided along with light snacks to spur your creativity!
More information is available on their website.
While the child advocacy center is the primary mission of River Bridge, they also operate the adult sexual assault program, MountainWest SANE Alliance (MWSA), as a secondary mission. SANE stands for “Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.” This service began in 2018 after having been discontinued in 2012 by an area hospital. Victims of sexual assault are able to receive a comprehensive medical exam, treatment, and evidence collection. Whether or not an adult victim follows through to make a police report, it’s essential they meet with a medical provider to receive a thorough physical exam and testing in order to prevent health issues in their future. Joni Owens, Medical Program Coordinator states, “The recovery a person goes through following a sexual assault is a very individualized process. We know that receiving care via a SANE exam and getting connected to community resources is a critical piece of that recovery and from moving from being a victim to being a survivor.” You may access more information aboutMWSA and how one can request a SANE exam on the River Bridge website.
Funding for River Bridge comes from grants and state and local victim services funds, donations, and an annual fundraising event. The event, called Imagine!, is on Saturday,
April 15th and will be held at The Arts Campus at Willits (TACAW) in Basalt, from 6-9pm. The evening will feature food, beverages, a silent and live auction, and live music from A Band Called Alexis. Thanks to ACE Hardware of Carbondale, Alpine Bank, Bighorn Toyota, Gould Construction and Roaring Fork Furniture for being leading sponsors of the 8th annual event.
Executive Director Blythe Chapman said she hopes that in addition to raising funds for child abuse treatment and prevention, Imagine! will continue to help raise community awareness. “Child abuse is an unfortunate reality in our valley and we know it’s a difficult issue for people to acknowledge or even talk about,” she said. “But the good news is that River Bridge is here to help children and families, from the very beginning states of disclosure through treatment and into recovery.” Imagine…a community free of child abuse and sexual assault. Imagine…all children growing up to be happy, healthy and safe. Imagine…providing hope and support for the children, families, and adults that will come to River Bridge and/orMWSA this year. For more information about River Bridge or to make a donation to support their work with victims, please visit, http://www.riverbrigerc.org/
IF YOU GO…
What: Imagine! The 8th annual fundraiser benefiting River Bridge Regional Center
When: 6-9pm. Saturday, April 15
Where: The Arts Campus at Willits (TACAW), 400 Robinson Street, Basalt
Cost: $100 per person, 21+ years old only
More information: Visit https://imagine-8.eventbrite.com, or call 970-945-5195.