Protecting Children Is An Adult Responsibility

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Christy Walton, M.Ed.

Program Director/Forensic Interviewer

Gila Family Advocacy Center

This past year, I have had the privilege of working as the program director and forensic interviewer of the Gila Family Advocacy Center in Payson. During that time, I've learned that nothing clears a room faster than me talking about what it is that I do for a living. By saying, "I work as part of a team to investigate child physical and sexual abuse allegations," I'm catapulted right up there in the ranks of tax collector and local mortician. Nobody wants to hear about it. The biggest difference here is that taxes and death are inevitable. Child abuse is completely avoidable.

Interestingly, if I tweak my vocation description a bit, and simply say, "I'm a forensic interviewer," the reaction is polar opposite. Suddenly my job is an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigations, where I'm doing compelling and fascinating work. I find myself flooded with questions and lively discussion about my profession and am applauded for my efforts. However, the conversation always winds back to what it is that I actually do for a living ... I work as part of a team to investigate child physical and sexual abuse allegations.

Child abuse is an easy subject to want to ignore. But that certainly does not make it disappear. Television has a funny way of glamorizing dark topics. The key is to not allow popular crime dramas to blur the lines between fiction and reality. This is particularly important when you're serving on a jury.

For those still reading and willing to hear more, here's one reality in a nutshell. One in four girls, and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. And yes, this includes boys and girls in Gila County.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is a time for adults, who have the responsibility for the care and safety of children, to reveal their courage and accept that responsibility. Throughout April, you will see and hear information about Child Abuse Prevention and what we, as adults, can do to protect our children.

In Payson, we will have educational materials at the Fools' Day Fun family event at the Rim Country Middle School on April 5 and at the Business Showcase at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino on April 19. We're also joining forces with the Court Appointed Special Advocate's "Go Blue with CASA" child abuse prevention campaign asking everyone to wear blue on April 15. In addition, we're bringing professional training to Gila County to enhance our investigative team efforts. We're also celebrating our one-year anniversary as Gila County's first and only advocacy center.

If you would like to learn more about April's events, or what you or your organization can do to protect children from having to suffer through being abused, please call our office at (928) 472-4544. We will be more than happy to provide presentations, trainings, educational materials or assistance. The Gila Family Advocacy Center is proud to be the newest program of Time Out, Inc.

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