By Michael Rheinheimer
Cherish held its fifth annual breakfast at the Delaware Township Community Center in Fishers June 27. Cherish is a Noblesville nonprofit that combats child abuse and exploitation. It is part of the larger National Children’s Alliance.
Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness and Noblesville Police Chief and Cherish Advisory Board member Kevin Jowitt spoke about abuse and mental health during the event.
Fadness spoke about his childhood and how he witnessed the long-term effects of child abuse.
“I grew up in North Dakota, and I had wonderful parents,” he said. “But my mother always seemed to be a little bit different. Whenever my mother would talk to her mother on the phone, it always seemed to be a very chaotic and difficult conversation.”
When Fadness was approximately 13-years-old, he found out his mother grew up in a home with frequent sexual and physical abuse.
“What I found to be the most interesting and tragic part of that story was the betrayal of the people that were supposed to take care of her,” he said. “She lived with that and lives with that today. She has good days and bad days.”
Fadness said she grew up in an era without systems to help deal with that kind of abuse.
“I have seen in her and her siblings, the scars that live on,” he said. “I wonder what could have happened if there would have been a place that truly understood how to deal with these issues.”
Fadness said that even today, people still live in a “quiet despair.”
“Our people were struggling, and we saw that manifest in the 911 calls on a daily basis,” he said. “These folks were in trouble. Fortunately, we came together as a group and said, ‘We’re going to try to address this.’”
Fadness said his team is making progress but still has challenges. He’s grateful for organization like Cherish.
“We hope to bring about a better outcome so we can lessen the scars that exist,” he said.
Jowitt talked about the importance of breaking the cycle of abuse. He said in his 43-year career in law enforcement, he has seen groups learn to work together more effectively.
“We weren’t very good at systems. We were all in our silos,” he said. “We did a good job in our disciplines but our focus wasn’t really on the people, it was on the successful resolution of our piece of things.”
Jowitt said those silos are starting to recognize that victims are subjected to “traumas that cannot be imagined, that carry effects through their entire lives.”
“Psychologists will tell us depression, anxiety PTSD (and) self-destructive behaviors, such as drug or alcohol abuse, or even suicide, are frequently the results of this kind of trauma,” he said. “Victims feel powerlessness and have a great deal of difficulty establishing interpersonal relationships. That’s a problem we all have to deal with in our communities.”
Jowitt said police are learning they have a duty to victims that goes beyond a successful prosecution. He said much of the recovery process for a childhood victim starts with the first interview.
“That’s why Cherish Center exists, and that’s why we believe in,” he said.
Cherish did not disclose how much money was raised at the breakfast, but Board of Directors President Tom Dickey confirmed that more than $20,000 had been raised before breakfast had even been served.