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New model for helping kids facing child abuse marks one year at Safe Passage help center

SAFE PASSAGE STILL
Posted at 4:00 PM, Nov 10, 2022

EL PASO COUNTY — “It is not the child's fault. It's not the teenagers fault. Abuse, that is the pedophile, that is their fault.”

Doris Donley wants to make sure kids dealing with abuse, especially sexual abuse, know they can get help.

The wife, mother and grandmother who now lives a happy and abundant life in Colorado Springs faced sexual abuse as a child.

“They beat down your self esteem. They say things like ‘if you tell, no-one will love you. No one will believe you,” said Donley.

As part of her advocacy for abuse victims, Donley supports a new innovative system introduced by the program Safe Passage.

The one of kind in Colorado center works to reduce the trauma of dealing with a child abuse case.

“The child is able to come to Safe Passage, they're able to tell a trained interviewer about what has happened to them. They have an advocate that stands next to them helps their caregiver navigate what comes next,” said Safe Passage Executive Director, Maureen Basenberg, “Meanwhile, law enforcement is doing what they need to do to ascertain safety. Along with Department of Human Services. We have a medical provider that's going to assist with any forensic medical needs, questions, exams, but we also have mental health here on site.

Gathering investigators, medical teams, counselors and advocates under one roof is very different from what Donley faced when she was nine and reported being abused.

She had two men in suits show up outside her house who took her and her mom to a police station for questioning.

“Sitting across the table with a microphone pointed at me. And they are asking all sorts of adult style questions to a nine year old child.”

She later went to a hospital for an examination.

“An intrusive physical, particularly for a nine year old,” said Donley.

She and her sister were sent to a very kind foster family, but the process was not easy.

”I have a vivid memory of walking down the sidewalk with a grocery bag, and holding my sister's hand and being put into a car with someone that we didn't know.”

Then there was going to court for a trial.

“I think a lot of adults are afraid of a courtroom,” said Donley, “I was definitely afraid of a courtroom as a nine year old.”

She remembers feeling to blame for possibly hurting her family.

“Unfortunately, he was found innocent. And a while later I was put back into my home with him. And then the abuse continued until I was 18 and left home.”

Going from location to location, day after day, and retelling her story multiple times caused more stress than relief.

“I'm thinking, ‘didn't they hear me the first time?’ Are they not understanding what I'm telling them, but now I'm starting to shut down,” said Donley.

Donley’s scenario is what the new co-location model at Safe Passage prevents.

Evaluations from people getting help at safe passage indicate the first year of the new advocacy model is showing positive results.

“All of this for our community was a theoretical model, right? When we approached and said, you know, we'd like to engage in this,” said Basenberg, “And now a year later, we can point to countless successes, where we've all worked better together and kids and families have felt that difference.”

From January to September of this year Safe Passage has served nearly 12 hundred child abuse victims from El Paso and Teller counties.

Safe Passage Children’s Advocacy Center:
2335 Robinson Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
(PH) 719-636-2460

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