Abused victims remembered at ‘Light up the Night’

51_balloonsflags_5437PRESENTING COLORS  — The wind was blowing and the flags were flying at the first Light Up the Night held at the CHS football field on Wednesday night. Presenting the flags were Pat Becker with the American Legion flag, Everett Snortland with the Montana State flag and Brad Huffman presenting the American flag. I-O Photo by Pat Lee

 

 

 

The first Light up the Night event on Wednesday was hampered by a chilly evening and blustery winds.

However, a number of hearty souls were out to remember and honor victims of sexual assault and child abuse.

April is both National Sexual Adult Awareness and National Child Abuse Prevention month.

Montana House Representative Rob Cook, HD-17, gave a riveting and sobering keynote talk.

I am new to much of this and I would like to take the time to describe two of the programs operating in our area. The first of these is the Hi-Lines Help for Abused Spouses. This organization has been operating in Conrad since 1982 and is currently directed by Connie Huffman.

Hi-Lines Help for Abused Spouses is an organization that provides services to host communities. This service addresses domestic violence, sexual assault and victim witnesses of crime.

The services provided include:  a 24-hour crisis line; a ‘one-on-one’ advocacy; child advocacy; victim witness; and a referral network.

Hi-Lines Help for Abused Spouses believes that every person has the right to make their own decisions and that their role is to provide information, advocacy and support.

They have assisted 50 victims, both adults and children over the past 15 months.

The second organization that operates in our area is Front Range CASA/GAL.

CASA is an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates and GAL is an acronym for Guardian Ad Litem. I am a little more familiar with this organization.

Front Range CASA/GAL has been in operation since 2000 and Kiersta Sullivan is the current executive director. It operates thoughout the Ninth Judicial Court District which includes Pondera, Glacier, Teton and Toole counties.

Their mission is to recruit, train, supervise, and support volunteers from the communities who will then serve as a child’s primary advocate in a court of law.

The CASA volunteer independently investigates the allegations in the case, visits with the child and all other relevant individuals and then submits their report to the court. The report includes recommendations that define the best interests of the child.

Front Range CASA currently serves 37 children with 15 volunteers.

I would direct any questions you may have about these two organizations to Huffman or Sullivan.

51_balloons_5447Before we set loose the balloons, it would be beneficial to present a few statistics that will provide us with an appreciation for the scope of these crimes.  The numbers are absolutely staggering!

Nationally, in 2010, the number of children who were victims of child abuse was 695,000. Of those, 1,560 died as a result of the abuse. If we were to look at those deaths relative to Conrad’s current population, the number of deaths represents three of every five of us.

Nationally, in 2009, the number of children who were victims of sexual assault was 65,964. This number represents roughly 10 percent of the total children that were abused. Therefore, one in 10 victims of child abuse is sexually abused.

Lest we imagine that this problem does not exist in Montana, in our back yard, almost 3,000 Montana children enter foster care due to abuse, neglect and other serious difficulties within their families.

Following are some statistics related specifically to sexual violence that are just staggering:

Nationally, in any given minute, 1.3 women will be forcibly raped. This equates to 78 per hour, 1,871 per day and 683,000 per year.

And  yet, rape or sexual assault is the violent crime least often reported to law enforcement. These crimes are reported only 28 percent of the time.

And now, a statistic that will put a face on the criminal: In eight out of 10 cases the victim will know their perpetrator.

And finally, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.

The number of victims of these crimes is mind-numbing and I hope that  tonight has left each of us better informed of the magnitude and the seriousness of these issues.

With that, 50 blue balloons to honor the victims of child abuse  and 50 teal balloons to honor the victims of sexual assault were released and briskly carried away by the winds.

Fifty white sky lanterns to honor all victims of violence did not come off because of the wind.

Editor’s note: This article was submitted and written by Rep. Rob Cook, HD-17.