One Local’s Advice Every Roaring Fork Parent Needs to Know

posted Aug 29, 2017, 11:14 AM by Bridget Derkash   [ updated Sep 18, 2017, 3:33 PM ]

These are the most powerful words regarding child advocacy I’ve read in a long time. I’ve been volunteering at River Bridge since 2011, and I thank Blythe Chapman for inspiring me to get involved. 

Blythe has become a great friend.  When we first met, Blythe had already fully committed herself to humanity through social work and I always admired the personal sacrifice her dedication required. When in 2011, she was selected as the Executive Director of River Bridge Regional Center and started planning the first annual Imagine Fundraiser to bring community awareness to the organization, I gladly signed up not knowing the true impact this work would have on me. It has been five years, five Imagine Fundraisers, one background check to become a victim’s advocate, and over 1,303 children served…and counting.

I was oblivious. I grew up in this valley. This majestic, serene location where friendly faces meet you at every corner. We left our doors unlocked. I walked miles alone to and from friend’s houses, went camping with school and church groups. My two sisters and I were fortunate to grow up here, especially since our dad had left us and my mom worked like crazy to provide for us. It seemed as though this valley was nearly immune to violence and terror. Crime was not a word you heard often and we certainly didn’t live in fear of it.

I was utterly shocked when I learned the statistics of child sexual abuse. One in five girls and one in 20 boys experience sexual abuse and 90% of the time the perpetrator is known to the victim. These were not the national statistics I thought they were, these are statistics FOR THIS VALLEY. Whatttt??!!! This safe haven? This happy, generous, loving community? My idyllic vision of my hometown was fractured. How could this be happening all around me and I had absolutely no idea? Well, that answer is simple. Abuse thrives in silence. Victims sadly blame themselves. Children are terrified and embarrassed. No one wants to talk about it.

I now have a son of my own and my work with River Bridge has never been more impactful as I see my work through the eyes of a parent. If I can help even one mother or father begin a conversation with their child about body safety and boundaries, or inspire one survivor to reveal their painful, guarded secrets to find freedom and finally heal those aching wounds, I could help repair that fractured vision of our perfect valley. I can work to create that safe haven for my son as he grows up in the parks I played in as a child and the schools where my laughter still echoes. I just hope my work can reach those children that keep Blythe up at night. 

In these five years as a volunteer, a local, a parent, seeing countless families endure one of their worst nightmares, I can boil down all the horrors of my experience into one piece of advice for you. Talk. Talk to your children. If you don’t know how to start the conversation, when is the appropriate age, or what to say to empower them, seek us out. Talk.  Create space for them to talk to you. Let them know that secrets aren't safe. If someone asks them to keep a secret they need to tell you.  Talk.  Talk to them about their body, name all of the parts of the body, and empower them to be the boss of their body.  Talk.  If any child tells you something that left you feeling uneasy, make the report, get help from the team of people who are here to support kids and families and keep talking.  It's the only way to prevent abuse and to keep our community safe. Take the first step today by talking to your kids. 


Jaspen Mackin has been volunteering with River Bridge Regional Center since 2011. 
She is trained as a victim advocate and plays an invaluable role on River Bridge's Outreach and Awarness Committee.  In 2016 Jaspen was the Event Coordinator for 
River Bridge's annual Imagine fundraiser.  

Where Silence Ends
Healing Begins