During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, several things happened to raise national awareness of childhood sexual abuse, how common it is, and how damaging it can be if not reported and treated. Numerous famous people went public with their stories: Marilyn Vandurber-Atler, Oprah Winfrey, etc. Judith Herman’s book on father-daughter incest came out as did the Courage to Heal. Media coverage was copious and sympathetic to victims. “Believe the children” bumper stickers were common. It was in this atmosphere that Blue Sky Bridge was born from the marriage of two simultaneous groups that were coming at the problem from different directions.
First, the Childhood Sexual Abuse Task Force was formed in the early 90’s by the leaders of the Mental Health Center, the Rape Crisis Team, and Safehouse because their agencies were being inundated with requests for help from adult survivors who wanted therapy for their needs assessment which identified several areas to be addressed:
Statewide legislation, specialized treatment for both child and adult victims, education about sexual abuse for all those in positions of trust and responsibility for children (parents, teachers, churches, day care providers, etc.), education for the psychotherapy professionals, better investigations of reported abuse, and better support for the child victims and their non-offending families.
Second, the District Attorney’s office, Social services, and the Sheriffs Department were reeling from the horrific Ballard-Dunnan child abuse case. Mary Lacey (Mary Keenan at the time of the case), Carolyn Roberts, and Maria Ortiz were determined that their agencies would work together better to serve the children and prevent the secondary victimization so common with the investigation and that process. Their research led them to the Child Advocacy Centers being developed all over the country including in Jefferson County and Pueblo.
After minimal negotiation, the two groups agreed to join forces and Boulder County’s Child and Family Advocacy Program was formed in late 1994. Our agency was unique among Child Advocacy Centers by having a strong commitment to education and training in addition to improving the investigative interviewing and support for non-offending families. The original board members and the early staff worked long hours to secure funding, find office space, and work out inter-agency agreements with the various police departments, social services and the DA’s office. Before we had the facilities and staff to interview children the IRATE (later PIE) committee was providing high quality educational presentations with nationally known speakers for the psychotherapy, social service, and law enforcement professional communities.
Within a few years, we had a solid board, excellent staff, office space with furniture and state-of-the-art video equipment, a large donor base, dedicated volunteer fundraisers, and an excellent reputation in the community both for our service to child victims and their families and for our educational programs. Those with marketing expertise convinced the board to change the name to Blue Sky Bridge. As fundraising became even more successful, we were able to buy our own building, which has already been outgrown.
Childhood sexual abuse is less frightening and less damaging in our community because of the services, intervention, and education provided by Blue Sky Bridge. Hopefully, one day our goal of elimination childhood sexual abuse in Boulder County will also be realized.