The Lisa Project
The statistics are staggering. In 2013, there were more than 2,100 substantiated reports of child abuse in Fresno County. That is an average of 6 substantiated cases every day.
That is an astounding number. But it becomes much more real, and much more meaningful, when you hear the true stories of these children, as they would tell them.
Michelle and I went to the opening of "The Lisa Project" this evening. This is a multi-media interactive exhibit on child abuse that First 5 of Fresno County, along with 11 community partners, has brought to Fresno for the month of April. The narrator of the self-guided audio tour is Lisa, and she begins by sharing a real 911 call she made at the age of 6 when her stepfather was severely beating her mom and her two younger siblings. She pauses in the telling of her own story, though, to let other children -- each in a separate room throughout the exhibit -- tell their personal stories. Children from toddlers to teens, living in poverty and in plenty, suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of the people who are supposed to keep them safe.
The stories are pretty hard to hear, and are made more real by the children's voices and the artifacts of their lives. A filthy kitchen where a child sleeps in the corner. A bathroom where a sheer shower curtain is all that separates an adolescent girl from her predator father.
As powerful as all of it was, I found I was most moved in the very last room when Lisa concluded her story. At the end of all of these very dark rooms and heart-wrenching stories, her real story gives the visitor hope. And motivation to help prevent child abuse.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and if you have a chance to go to The Lisa Project, you'll realize just how important our voices are.