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Amberly’s Place Family Advocacy Center has been dealing with a number of child abuse and domestic violence victims, and the summer high temperatures don’t helping.
“Absolutely, the heat is impacting domestic violence and family violence,” said Executive Director Tori Bourguignon. “It’s a huge factor. People are hot and tempers are short. They’re struggling to pay their air conditioning bills. The combination of financial stress and the heat is contributing to all kinds of calls.”
Traditionally, the number of child abuse reports goes up as schools ready for a new year. Things pick up dramatically in July, she said, as the Children’s Justice Project, of which Amberly’s Place is the hub, provides mandated reporter training for teachers on how to recognize signs and symptoms of child abuse and the mandate to report it.
Victims, too, are encouraged to tell the “secret” of their abuse. Children are more often saying something as awareness increases.
“I don’t think more abuse is happening,” Bourguignon said. “But more people are reporting it. I think child sexual abuse has always happened.”
In May, child sex abuse reports were up 12% when compared to the same time last year, Bourguignon noted. June was slower, perhaps because children were out of school. But so far in July the numbers are up.
Last year, 3,078 victims in Yuma County stepped through the doors of Amberly’s Place and began a journey to becoming a survivor. These are victims of child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking and stalking.
Bourguignon expects the number to be higher this year. “I don’t anticipate it will slow down. I would love to say our services won’t be needed in the future, but that’s not going to happen at this point.”
The organization’s website states: “These are not just meaningless statistics. Each one represents a son, daughter, a loving mother, a caring father, a sister, a brother, a kind neighbor, a dear friend, a colleague.”
They were referred by community service providers, teachers and physicians, Department of Child Safety, law enforcement and individuals who wish to self-report. At Amberly’s Place, they receive crisis intervention, forensic medical exams, forensic interviews with law enforcement, mental health referrals and the coordination of other victim services as well as advocacy on their behalf.
To provide that assistance, the organization relies on the help of the community, “support we’re truly grateful for,” Bourguignon said. That help may come in the form of a case of diapers or hygiene items for victims who fled their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs, support as the victim goes to court to obtain an order of protection or the money to fix slashed tires, pay for temporary shelter or purchase a bus ticket to flee to a safer place.
“We definitely have a need for diapers sizes 5 and 6 for ages 18 months to 2½,” Bourguignon said. “They’re a hot commodity. They go out faster than the smaller sizes.”
The organization also needs hygiene products such as shampoo and conditioner and women’s sanitary products, items that can’t be purchased with food stamp cards. There’s also a need for laundry soap as the domestic violence victims may have only the clothes they were wearing when they fled and need to launder them frequently.
“These victims are starting over,” she said. “They need these products for their basic needs.”
Donations may be dropped off at Amberly’s Place, 1310 S. 3rd Ave. Or call 928-373-0849 for more information.
A huge benefit to the organization, Bourguignon said, is to support Amberly’s Place Thrift Shoppe through donations to it and shopping there. The store is located at 812 S. Avenue A and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 928-329-2989.
The community also can help by supporting the major fundraisers for Amberly’s Place that raise money to help Yuma County abuse victims with emergency needs: A Week in Paradise held in June, Amberly’s Dream Gala in early spring or the Amberly’s Place benefit golf tournament organized by the Wellton Police Department to be held Sept. 23 at 8 a.m. at the Coyote Wash Golf Course in Wellton.
For registration details to play in the tournament, call the pro shop at 928-785-4653. If you are interested in being a hole sponsor, please contact Lt. Johnny Salcido at Wellton Police Department at 928-785-4887.
Amberly’s Place was established in 2000 to provide a community resource for abuse victims. It is named for Amberly Ann Mendoza, a 9-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and killed in her home in 1996. The homicide remains unsolved.
To talk to a crisis advocate, call the 24-hour helpline: 928-373-0849. For more information on spotting the signs of abuse, go to www.AmberlysPlace.com.