Ray of Hope shines light on child abuse
by Kelsey Gerhardt Staff Writer
The Ray of Hope Children’s Advocacy Center of Bell County will host a fundraiser on Sept. 19 at the Pine Mountain State Park lodge. Funds raised will help purchase equipment needed to aid in the prosecution of child sexual abuse cases.
Elaine Chao, the 24th U.S. Secretary of Labor, is the keynote speaker. A reception will be at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m.
Ray of Hope opened in July 2011 upon receipt of a sizeable grant from the Elgin Foundation. The funding helped provide a safe haven for children looking to report or recover from sexual abuse or physical violence.
Prior to the opening of Ray of Hope, abused and neglected children in Bell County traveled to London, the nearest children’s advocacy center to receive specialized services such as forensic interviews, counseling, play therapy sessions, and parent support services for the non-offending caregiver.
Often those needing services had to wait days and even weeks for needed services. Many victimized children did not receive services due to the lack of transportation and or financial constraints of families.
“A wait for services has the potential to hinder prosecution of a perpetrator and, more significantly, put a child at a greater risk,” said Gina Johnson, executive director.
The Ray of Hope provides consistent and effective services in the timeliest manner which helps to better ensure the safety of the child.
Services provided include forensic interviews, counseling for the abused, services on-site or through referrals for the non-offending caregiver, play therapy sessions, cognitive trauma focused behavioral therapy, additional assessments and strategies for ensuring the best outcome for the victimized child.
Last year, grants and donations allowed Ray of Hope to provide more than 4,000 counseling hours to children.
“In addition to what is required by the state and national standards, we offer Education and Prevention Services to all interested classrooms in Bell County,” said Johnson.
Parenting Classes are provided on Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Ray of Hope staff seeks to provide high level services that influence the outcome of those who have been victimized. Last year, more than 36,000 direct service hours were provided. Currently, Ray of Hope performs all services needed except forensic exams. These exams are crucial to substantiate physical and or sexual abuse and used to prosecute those who harm our children. Ray of Hope, as well as partnering agencies, no longer wish to have Bell County’s children travel two hours or more for forensic exams.
While Ray of Hope offers a service that Bell County has never had before, the organization is in need of a new piece of costly equipment that allows the forensic medical examiner to assess and record the extent of the abuse to a victimized child.
“Financial support is greatly needed to assist us with the purchase of a Colposcope, a specialized piece of equipment needed to perform sexual exams,” Johnson said.
Colposcopes provide accurate and non-contaminated exams that better ensure all perpetrators are prosecuted and that our children will be safe. The Colposcope will complete the agency’s forensic exam room.
Ray of Hope, a non-profit organization, operates solely on grant funds and community support.
Tickets can be purchased for $100, $50 or $35 from Ray of Hope staff or board members.
Interested persons may call 606-654-2155 or email email@example.com to reserve a ticket or for more information.
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