In classrooms across the Purchase area, it is likely that many of the innocent faces are hiding something atrocious.

According to the Department of Justice, one in three girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they reach eighteen years old. More than ninety percent of child sexual abuse victims know their attacker.

Children and adolescents who experience sexual violence have many of the same reactions as adults. Emotional reactions include fear, shame, guilt, humiliation, a distorted self-perception, and self-blame. These often lead to depression and anxiety. One in three who experience sexual violence is likely to develop Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

The Purchase Area Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center has served as a voice for children and adults of Ballard, Carlisle, Calloway, Graves, Hickman, Fulton, McCracken, and Marshall since 1987. The PASAC is a non-profit organization that provides free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault and their family. Their focus is to provide comprehensive services for child and adult survivors of sexual violence from crisis through healing to long-term recovery. Intervention services include 24-hour crisis hotline services, medical advocacy, legal and personal advocacy, information and referrals, clinical therapy services, and holistic health coaching.

Recently, the PASAC was awarded a grant from the local chapter of Ronald McDonald House Charities. The funding assisted in the purchase of specialized equipment, allowing PASAC to offer neurofeedback therapy as a treatment method. Neurofeedback is a specialized treatment that has shown to be effective in decreasing the problems associated with sexual violence and improving the individual’s overall functioning.  This type of treatment allows the patient to see their brainwaves on a computer screen within a few thousandths of a second after they occur, giving them the ability to influence and gradually change them. Families will no longer have to travel three or more hours to one of the five certified neurofeedback/EEG professionals in Kentucky, but now can receive this advanced treatment method locally and free of charge.

“So many children and families deal with the challenges of ADHD, anxiety, and behavior issues related to a child experiencing a traumatic event like abuse, and neurofeedback is a treatment method that is proven to be very effective,” stated Kelli Morrow, PASAC Clinical Coordinator. 

Neurofeedback training helps the person to increase brain waves associated with a calm state and regulate their response to stress. Research has shown neurofeedback to help manage arousal level, sleep-wake cycles, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, seizure activity, and migraines as well as increase attention and concentration and help in regulating emotional responses. 

The PASAC expects to begin incorporating the neurofeedback into their therapy approach late January 2017.

Part of the PASAC’s mission is prevention education and awareness. Prevention programs through the center are available for preschool age children through adults.

The Darkness to Light program is designed to empower people to prevent child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of sexual abuse.

Green Dot, a high school and middle school program, is a comprehensive and effective approach to violence prevention that capitalizes on the power of peer and cultural influence. A CDC funded study shows schools that implement the Green Dot program have a fifty percent reduction in sexual violence perpetration.

The preschool through 12th grade programs focus on teaching safety, kindness, compassion and acceptance, bullying, bystander empowerment, and leadership training. The programs equip the entire school community, including students, teachers, staff, and parents.

The support of the community, whether through volunteering or donations, helps the PASAC to provide crucial services to the victims and their families for free of charge. Amberly Walker, PASAC’s Development Director, explains, “There are several different ways to support PASAC’s mission.  People can give their money, time, or talents.  We are experiencing a huge increase in the demand for services across the board so any financial contribution helps to ensure our clients continue to receive specialized intervention services at no cost to the survivor or family.  We also need financial support to support our prevention education programming efforts so we can reach out to more children, youth, and adults in the community. We always need volunteers. There are numerous ways to volunteer. Anything from fundraising events or board service to setting up a bottled water donation drive.”

Perhaps one of the most powerful ways to help is to be a voice and raise awareness of the issue of sexual assault and child abuse. While issues such as this are difficult, one in three girls and one in six boys cannot bear to endure the silence alone.

For more information about the Purchase Area Sexual Assault & Child Advocacy Center, please visit their website at www.hopehealgrow.org or contact the Paducah center at 270-534-4422 or the Murray center at 270-753-5777.

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