By Alicia Owens
I recently attended the annual National Safe Environment & Victim Assistance Coordinators Leadership Conference in Omaha, Neb., titled “Chosen to Heal and Protect.” About 150 individuals, holding various positions within their respective dioceses, attended the conference held the week of Aug. 12.
As I picked up the tote bag with the title boldly printed on it, I thought to myself, aren’t we all chosen to help heal each other regardless of who we are or what our religious beliefs may be?
The speakers were the “cream of the crop,” and workshop titles included: “Where We’ve Been & Where We’re Going,” “Helping Without Hurting,” “Preventing Peer to Peer Abuse,” “Audit Results,” “Sexual Addiction & Pornography,” “Freedom From Pornography: Hope of Recovery,” “Ecumenical Outreach & Prevention” and “Self Care for Those in the Front Line.”
Although I have attended many presentations on these subjects in the past, my own journey over the last 10 years since the U.S. bishops issued the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People has changed the way I hear the information. Three questions in particular stuck with me: (1) What has become normalized in our society for children? (2) What are you doing in your diocese to create awareness about the subjects you have heard? and (3) How are you reaching out in your diocese to people of other faiths to create awareness and do something about what is now becoming normalized in our society?
In the Davenport Diocese we have begun in many ways to address the above questions. Through faith formation programs there are many avenues in place to create awareness about sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Diocesan clergy and staff attend seminars to stay current on what is happening and what can and should be done in these areas.
On Sept. 10, our outreach will extend to all people of our diocese with an invitation to attend a program titled “The Exploitation of Minors On-Line.” The presentation will be at St. John Vianney Church in Bettendorf, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Speaker Michael Ferjak, from the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, spoke at the annual Clergy Days last fall and was very well received. We now are planning to bring his presentation to each deanery in the Diocese of Davenport.
I hope that you will attend and bring a friend of any faith. Afterward, our challenge will be to dialogue about what more we can do as people Chosen to Heal and Protect.
(Owens is Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport. She can be contacted at (563) 349-5002, firstname.lastname@example.org or PO Box 232, Bettendorf, IA 52722.)