Comfort for abused children: center has new name, services
Joyce Oglesby is an expert on child abuse. Unfortunately, she became an expert through first-hand experience, as a victim.
Speaking at Sunday’s grand opening of Comfort House in Milltown ‘ the former RAPE Treatment Center, a sexual assault treatment facility that now includes a child advocacy center ‘ Oglesby took the audience with her back to her childhood, when she was a fourth grader in Georgia.
Despite wearing long sleeves and pants in 90-degree weather and moving slowly when getting up from her chair, Oglesby said she was not asked by her teacher if anything was wrong. Instead, the teacher chastised her for smelling like urine.
Oglesby first remembers being physically and sexually abused by her father in the first grade. She said she would get in trouble for wetting her bed, a result of her nerves being rattled from the abuse earlier that night. To punish her, her father would rub her face in the urine and wouldn’t let her take a bath before going to school.
‘To this day, that’s the memory of my fourth-grade school year, and that’s my only memory.’
Over the years, Oglesby called the police when her father abused her, her mother or her six brothers and sister. However, the police, like her teachers, never asked what was happening inside the house.
‘If they had just taken the time to investigate, they could have spared eight children a lot of years of abuse,’ she said.
Oglesby credits Jesus Christ for getting her through the dark days, ‘and believe me, there were days and nights I wondered if I would live.’
She said her siblings haven’t been as fortunate. They have had multiple marriages ‘ some as many as five. Her brothers, as is often the case with abused children, have repeated the actions of their father in their relationships, while her sister stayed for years in an abusive situation.
‘How different all our lives would have been if someone had just intervened,’ she said.
Children didn’t have as many programs to help them 40 years ago, ‘but, today, there is no excuse for abuse,’ Oglesby said. She thanked those involved with Comfort House and encouraged everyone at the open house to be vigilant.
‘You can be a child’s advocate. You can be the person who makes a difference whether a child wears long pants, long sleeves in 90-degree weather,’ she said.
Oglesby’s husband, the Rev. Webster Oglesby, pastor at Lincoln Hills Christian Church in Corydon and vice president of the Southern Indiana Regional Alliance to Prevent Exploitation Inc. Board of Directors, which oversees Comfort House, kicked off the open house program by saying the facility has helped many abused adults in their recovery and legally.
‘Because of this center, not only do we bring comfort to people who are hurting, but we also gather very important evidence’ for possible criminal cases, he said.
Opened in April 2002, the RAPE Treatment Center helped sexually-abused adults in Crawford, Harrison and Orange counties. That December, the facility began seeing children.
‘We realized that was a very big need,’ said Executive Director Lola Ratterman, R.N.
Over time, the facility, which now also assists people in Spencer, Dubois and Perry counties, decided it needed an on-site child advocacy center with teams comprised of law enforcement, prosecutorial and medical officials and others, so children can be comforted and information can be shared more easily.
‘As you could imagine, that group of people pulling together is a great feat,’ said Ratterman, who received a standing ovation from the crowd for her commitment to the center.
Orange County Prosecutor Kelly Minton said the center, a member of the National Children’s Alliance, is important from a legal standpoint because it allows children to be professionally examined quickly.
Quoting scripture to make his point, Minton said the employees and volunteers at the center, as well as the team members and others who help in the fight against abuse, will be blessed for their efforts.
The event included performances by the Lincoln Hills Christian Church Children’s Choir and the announcement of winners of an art contest. The first-place pieces decorated the center. The three divisions had entries; here are the results:
‘ Third grade: First, Katy Swank; second, Katrina Klingsmith; third (tie), Victoria Sallee and Amy Weaver;
‘ High school: First, Alyssa Ransdell; second, Elizabeth Gasaway; third, Kate Hanus;
‘ Adult: First, Jacy Fox; second (tie) Kenneth McSpadden and anonymous; third, Kenneth McSpadden.
Following the presentation, attendees toured the facility and visited several booths, including an art expression center, where children tried their hand at painting.