Kid Talk at La Piñon
Keeping the line open for children to seek help anonymously
By Annette Paanajen
Four years ago, KID TALK began operating in Doña Ana County through a grant from the ChildSafe/NiñosSeguros program of the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico. ChildSafe/NinosSeguros attempts to address child abuse in Doña Ana County, which is second in the state for reported cases and has experienced seven child deaths from abuse in the past five years.
Kid Talk operates as a service offered by La Piñon Sexual Assault Recovery Services in Las Cruces. Volunteers are trained to help children deal - anonymously, if they want - with myriad problems, including bullying, family issues such as divorce or separation, physical or sexual abuse, pregnancy, problems with friends, or issues smoking, alcohol, and drugs.
Last year, a young girl sent a text message to Kid Talk saying that a friend had confided that she was being sexually abused. This young girl was afraid for her friend and "did not want her (to continue) to suffer." Her dilemma was that, although she wanted to help her friend, she didn't want her friend to know that she was breaking her confidence.
The Kid Talk volunteer victim advocate exchanged several text messages with the young girl, carefully building trust. The advocate then was able to obtain the name of the school they attended and the victim's first name.
The case was referred to law enforcement authorities who, through an investigation, identified the victim and assessed the situation. Also notified were La Piñon Sexual Assault Recovery Services and Statewide Central Intake, a unit within the New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department/Protective Services Division.
Law enforcement and La Piñon collaborated on a plan to handle the case safely and discreetly, and contacted the victim. She disclosed the abuse and identified the perpetrator.
As with many cases, the young victim tried to protect her parents and found it very difficult to disclose details about the abuse that was occurring. However, once the child's parents became aware of the situation, they made every effort to provide a safe environment for their child.
The authorities were able to make an arrest within a week. La Piñon was able to provide counseling services to the young victim and members of her family, helping them as the case made its way through the justice system.
In this situation, outreach efforts about the Kid Talk warm line really paid off. La Piñon employs four full-time presenters who work with Las Cruces Public Schools, Gadsden Independent School District and Hatch Valley School District to make classroom presentations and distribute information about Kid Talk and its phone number.
Kid Talk warm line volunteers are available Monday-Thursday from 3 p.m.-10 p.m. and all weekend, starting from Friday at 3 p.m. through Sunday at 10 p.m. Call or text 575.636.3636.
La Piñon is the only organization in the southern part of New Mexico providing comprehensive services to sexual assault and abuse survivors and their families. Services include therapeutic outpatient counseling, award-winning prevention programs, 24/7 crisis intervention, the SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Project and Kid Talk.
The organization also offers professional training on sexual assault and first response to law enforcement locally and in surrounding counties. Its crisis intervention program is worked by volunteer advocates who successfully complete a 40-hour training prior to responding in person and on the phone to sexual assault victims, their families and support system.
If you would like to learn more about La Piñon, or find out how to contribute, call 575-526-3437 or 1-888-595-7273. Visit its website at www.zianet.com/lapinon.
The SCI hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anyone who suspects that a child has been abused or neglected or is in danger of abuse or neglect must immediately report to 800.797.3260.