My Day With ABC House

IMG_6360Last year, PacificSource supported the All Because of Children (ABC) House of Linn and Benton County, OR. They sounded like a great organization, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what kind of work they were doing. To get a better idea of how they were helping children in Albany, Corvallis, and surrounding areas, I asked if I could come tour their facility. Jenny and Lynn with ABC House welcomed me with open arms, and the experience left me speechless.

To paint a picture of the work they’re doing, I’ll back up to a time before centers like ABC House existed. In the old days, when abuse was suspected in a home, a child would have to tell their story over and over again. Kids, who might have already faced a traumatic event would have to relive that story with lawyers, prosecutors, doctors, counselors, and family members. In many cases, the process of documenting the abuse was almost as bad as the abuse itself. Not to mention, stories are bound to change when you tell it over and over again, so a child’s credibility could be put into question.

Elsa the super lovable therapy dog.

Elsa, the super lovable therapy dog.

ABC House was created to put children first, and make them feel safe after they’ve endured abuse. In Linn or Benton County, when abuse is suspected in a home, a child is referred (from a doctor, lawyer, or law enforcement agency) to the ABC House. The center is strategically designed to foster a warm, welcome environment. It’s not cold like a police station or a hospital, but it provides children with the necessary resources to treat and document medical issues, allows them to make a statement to a qualified interviewer, receive on-site counseling, and makes them feel safe the whole time. They have games, stuffed animals, and one of the most adorable therapy dogs I’ve ever met (meet Elsa, picture to the right. She and I were fast friends). While the statements are used to assist in resolving abuse (including court cases), ABC House prides themselves on the fact that when a child leaves their facility, a weight is lifted off their shoulders, and they can start the healing process.

A Story from a Child

As I was being shown around the building, the folks at ABC House told me a few stories that tugged pretty hard on my heart-strings. This was the one that stuck with me:

A girl who was about 12 years old was being sexually abused in her household. Since she was going through puberty at the time, she started to grow arm hair at the same time the abuse was starting. A very normal part of puberty, but this girl thought her arm hair was growing as a result of the abuse. With that in mind, she thought her arm hair was a signal to the rest of the world that she had been sexually molested. She wore long sleeves constantly, and lived in a steady state of fear that somebody would spot the arm hair.  

At the ABC House, she finally felt comfortable enough to ask the in-house doctor about her arm hair. Until that point, she didn’t have somebody she could trust enough to ask. The doctor told her it was completely normal, gave her a quick tutorial about what to expect in puberty, and reassured her that she shouldn’t be ashamed of any changes that were happening to her body. After leaving the doctor’s office, she told one of the employees at ABC House how excited she was to finally wear a short-sleeved shirt. According to the people at ABC House, the relief on her face was visible to all who saw her.

The Quilts

Every child who leaves ABC House gets their own, hand-made quilt.

Every child who leaves ABC House gets their own, hand-made quilt.

Perhaps the most heartwarming part of the day came at the end of my tour when I learned that every child who visits ABC House leaves with a stuffed animal, and a handmade quilt. All of the quilts are donated by kind-hearted volunteers in Linn and Benton County who want to make children feel the warmth and safety that comes with a hand-made blanket. Kids literally pull a quilt they like off the wall, and it’s theirs to keep.

It’s safe to say I was incredibly moved by the work that they’re doing. While I’m not exactly the warm and fuzzy type, I’ll admit that when I was hearing stories about children who desperately needed help, and received it at ABC House, I was doing the “I have something in my eye” trick (aka the waterworks were flowing).

I can’t thank the people at ABC House enough. The work they’re doing is difficult, but it’s vital for the community. I’m thrilled that PacificSource is supporting the Runaway Pumpkin Half Marathon on October 19 this year, which directly benefits ABC House. If you’d like to learn more about the race, and how it helps kids in Linn and Benton County, check out the Runaway Pumpkin Half Marathon Facebook page. And if you’d like to run it, I’ll be there struggling through each mile. I’d love to see you there!

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1 Comment

  1. Picky Eater

     /  May 28, 2013

    This is the neatest thing! I am going to go make them a quilt!

    Reply

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