Support group forms for child abuse

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2008

GATES – Sometimes, no matter how hard we listen, we miss the point.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we fail.

Sometimes, we reach the point where we just can’t take it anymore.

That’s the focus behind a new support group, Victims’ Voices, one targeting victims and families of child sexual abuse.

The group’s first meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 7 at the Gates Ruritan Club building located on Gates School Road.

Amy Barnes and Brenda Caulk have started the group.

“For generations, children and adults have been hushed and Victims’ Voices intends for that to stop,” read a promotional flyer produced by Barnes and Caulk.

“Sexual abuse is rampant in our nation and too many criminals are not paying for their crimes.”

According to Caulk and Barnes, the statistics for sexually abused children are 1 in 3 for girls and 1 in 6 for boys; compared to the 1 in 2500 chance being diagnosed with breast cancer.

The goal for this support group is to help the families of sexually abused children and adults who were abused as children.

For Barnes, the memory of coming face-to-face with a child abuse case is painful. She was recently involved in such a case, one where legal action against the accused was dismissed the day prior to it being heard by a jury.

“I thank God for giving me the strength to endure the past five years,” Barnes said. “I found no help for my daughter in those five years. I was told to be quiet or it would hurt the case, so I remained silent and still the case was never heard.”

Barnes said she wants to hear from anyone who feels as though the system let them down and the group wants to be the voice for those too scared to speak.

Barnes said that she wants to break the silence; the system is failing.

“I’m not going to be quiet anymore; no more hush hush,” she said.

“You need to understand the passion,” said Caulk. “Not a counselor or professional is leading the group, but someone who has lived through this type of situation and can understand where you are coming from.”

Caulk and Barnes urge people that if they have been a victim of these crimes, and even adults who were abused as children and no one listened, to please attend the meeting and let their voice be heard.

The goals of the support group are to create a platform for victims to be heard; to provide resources for victims and their families; and to get feedback from others who have been through this process.

“One person can’t do anything like a group,” said Caulk.

Barnes and Caulk also hope to start a non-profit organization, build Tyler Houses (for families to find shelter, support, counseling, legal advice and guidance), start campaigns in schools: “You touch, I tell,” and start a national billboard campaign to break the silence and put the shame where it belongs: on the crime, not the child.

“The abuse doesn’t end when it is over,” said Barnes.

“It has a lasting effect on peoples’ lives; it goes on and on.”

“We want to be a shoulder people can lean on and lend an ear,” she said.

“This group is not about vengeance,” said Barnes.

“We are going forward and making changes to keep it from happening to others.”