Author, child abuse survivor will speak at benefit for Legacy Salmon Creek program

Digene Farrar, a motivational speaker and registered nurse in Seattle who has written a memoir about healing from childhood abuse, “Not My Secret to Keep,” will be the keynote speaker at a fundraising luncheon for Legacy Salmon Creek’s Child Abuse Assessment Team.

The 2015 Salmon Creek Cares Luncheon is from 11:30 am. to 1 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Hilton Vancouver, 301 W. Sixth St. Tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased through Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Farrar, 59, said she was invited to speak after her appearance last year in the Oregon production “Telling: Adult Survivors of Child Sex Abuse Step into the Light.” The nonprofitOregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Servicepresented the play, by former Oregonian/OregonLive columnist Margie Boule, in partnership with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The date of the luncheon was a factor as well, Farrar said. On Sept. 11, 2001, she was in New York and witnessed terrorists’ destruction of the World Trade Center. “Something about that day … basically just reactivated post-traumatic stress that I had suffered through as a child” following physical, emotional and sexual abuse, she said.

At the luncheon, Farrar plans to speak about the difference that awareness, education, prevention and intervention services such as the Child Abuse Assessment Team can make in terms of helping children build resilience. For example, she said, “we have laws such as mandatory reporting … I often talk about the importance of that law in terms of protecting children. If that law would have been the case, I would have benefited from it.”

Farrar said she also speaks about child abuse as part of “putting a face to what abuse looks like” and validating survivors’ stories.

“Not talking isn’t helping anyone,” she said.

The Child Abuse Assessment Team serves five Washington counties: Clark, Skamania, Klickitat, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum. It opened a clinic in October 2011, filling a gap left after a Vancouver pediatrician who had been taking child abuse referrals, Dr. John Stirling, moved to California.

“We’ve become the go-to site for child abuse cases,” said Dr. Kim Copeland, site medical director.

She said the clinic has received 1,400 referrals of suspected child abuse since it opened. About 100 children a year receive followup evaluations. Copeland said the remaining children are either exempted from exams because the emergency room has sufficient documentation, or found not to be abuse or neglect victims.

The ratio of sexual to physical abuse cases is about two-thirds to one-third, Copeland said.

While law enforcement and emergency room staff provide most referrals to the clinic, individuals also can report suspected child abuse, Copeland said. The only requirement is that they also file a report with Child Protective Services, which can be done confidentially.

Copeland said the clinic sees children regardless of their insurance status. “It’s through the support of the community that we’ve been able to do this,” she said. “The biggest humbling thing for me is how much support we’ve had and what a huge difference it’s made.”