Family and Children’s Place Serves Thousands in Mission to Prevent Abuse and Neglect

In the movie “Beauty Mark,” filmed recently in the Portland neighborhood, the main character experiences many of the vulnerabilities that Pam Darnall sees every day.

Darnall is president and CEO of Family and Children’s Place, a nonprofit that serves 6,000 people every year with a mission to prevent abuse and neglect. Darnall cited statistics showing that 1 in 10 kids will be sexually abused before they are 18.

“What the research says is that it is extensively under-reported,” she says. “We don’t really even know what the true statistics are, but 1 in 10 is bad enough.”

The film, produced by Gill Holland’s The Group Entertainment, paints a dismal view of one young woman’s life, her situation permanently and adversely affected by sexual abuse she suffered at the age of 5. The movie has been released as a major motion picture on Netflix.

“It’s a powerful story of a young woman who is raising her child and trying to be a caretaker for her mother, who has alcohol issues,” Darnall says. “The real story here is that this young woman is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse beginning when she was 5 years old.”

In the film, the character has a low-wage job, a limited education, an unreliable car, a child and a mother to provide for. When the home they’re living in is condemned, she must find a new place for her family to stay.

“The sad thing is, in our community, many people live like that every single day,” Darnall says. “Working hard, trying to do their very best – it’s the opportunities that they’re given, not the opportunities that they take.”

The movie sends a clear message about the difficulties many people face. And it shows why an organization like Family and Children’s Place is necessary. Based downtown, the nonprofit has 100 staff members and an annual budget of $6.3 million. It works to prevent abuse of children, or stops it, and then helps those affected families heal.

When the new YMCA is completed at 18th and West Broadway, Family and Children’s Place will have space there for counselors. It operates the Kosair Charities Child Advocacy Center at its Fifth and Kentucky campus, and has an office in southern Indiana.

Darnall says abuse is not limited to any demographic or income level, but that those affected by poverty are especially vulnerable, saying 53 percent of the families she serves are from West Louisville.

“What the movie showed us was that families who have all these vulnerabilities – poverty, lack of education, no further opportunities to get education to get out of where you live – are more susceptible to the other vulnerabilities like people who want to hurt kids, and they prey on kids,” she says. “People who are intent on hurting kids in that way are usually very good at it.”

One reason the crime is so under-reported is that abusers have a way of getting kids to keep secrets, and abuse must be reported by children to be uncovered.

“We help parents understand that we have to believe our kids when they come to us,” Darnall says. “But we have to have that relationship where they can come to us and tell us anything they have to say. That’s critically important.”

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