Child victims of sexual abuse may soon have a new comprehensive avenue for counseling, mentorship and advocacy if a proposed partnership between local groups comes to fruition.
Dennis Horion, founder of the Adopt-a-Horse program, has in recent months been working the phones with other Newton County victims groups to create the all encompassing new program.
"We have taken a hard look at our community and have found a need for change," Horion said. "We want to provide a place where the children can come to terms with what has happened and so they can try to figure out where to go from there. We as a community need to ban together for these children."
Though no plans have been set in stone, Horion said he has secured a partnership with the Medline Therapy Group, Little Angels EduCare and the Newton Mental Health Center. He is also in talks with Prevent Child Abuse Newton to join the as yet unnamed project.
"We just want these kids and their families to know there is help and they are not alone," Horion said.
If the final details can be worked out, child victims of sexual abuse will be able to attend an after school program which will cater to their specific needs. Phoebe Towlette, the owner of Little Angels EduCare, said the children would be transported after school to her facility on Hazel Brown Road where the majority of the program would occur.
"We have an opportunity to do some real great things for these kids," Towlette said.
During the program, children would have a variety of activities to choose from including dance and horseback riding at the 200 acre Adopt-a-Horse ranch south of Covington. When not partaking in the fun activities, the children would attend both group and individual counseling sessions with therapists from the Medlin Therapy Group.
"Our job is to take all of this and bring it together for the benefit of the kids," Horion said.
According to Horion, therapists from the Medlin group currently treat abused children from Newton County, but under the present system the children must travel to Stockbridge for the sessions.
"Going to Stockbridge can be a real impediment for the children," Horion said. "It is just a big inconvenience for everyone."
If the program works as planned, children who participate during these inaugural programs could eventually learn to help others with their problems.
"Our ultimate goal is to turn these kids into mentors for the others who have named their abusers," said Horion, who would know a thing or two about overcoming abuse as a child.
Horion was a victim of sexual abuse as a child at the hands of a Catholic priest in New Hampshire. He went public with his story to corroborate the allegations of sexual abuse made against the priest by another young victim.
The priest spent 10 years in the New Hampshire State Penitentiary and Horion and the other victim received a financial settlement from the New Hampshire Catholic Church, much of which he has used to create programs like Adopt-a-Horse.
Under its current configuration, Adopt-a-Horse offers survivors of child abuse a natural environment to enjoy the therapeutic comfort of horses by pair the children with working animals to create a bond of trust between the two. Horion said the ranch currently houses 15 horses.
Along with the therapeutic aspects of the new project, Horion hopes to be able to help the children bring their abusers to justice. Only a small percentage of the child sexual abuse cases are reported every year, Horion said, and even after they are reported, many of abusers never see jail time.
"The numbers are absolutely inexcusable," Horion said.
To contact Horion about the up coming project, please call (770) 712-8685 or visit the Web site www.Adopt-a-horse.org. To make a donation to project, please visit www.arabianknightsraceteam.org.