I.F. man creates foundation for child sexual abuse survivors
IDAHO FALLS — There is hope and help for sexual abuse survivors.
That is the message of the Building Hope Today Foundation, a newly organized non-profit with the goal of healing and wholeness for communities and individuals impacted by childhood sexual abuse.
Around 800 people, including law enforcement, politicians, advocates, medical professionals and others, attended the foundation’s first community outreach conference Wednesday evening at the Melaleuca Special Events Center in Idaho Falls.
“This is a problem in our community, and tonight we are letting people know that it must stop,” said Matt Morgan, the founder of Building Hope Today. “We have come together to take a stand.”
Morgan was sexually abused as a child and said he started the foundation to address a variety of needs that remain unfulfilled due to suppression, shame and heartbreak that typically surrounds abuse.
Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Danny Clark was one of several presenters at the event. He spoke about prosecuting Jeffrey Dunn, an Idaho Falls man who molested three girls and was convicted by a jury in 2013.
Dunn was retried earlier this year after winning an appeal claiming a mistrial when he was originally convicted of the sex crimes. He was found guilty in March.
“The victims had to face him in the eyes once again and describe the horror they endured,” Clark said. “It was the most emotional experience I’ve ever had in court.”
Moments later, two of the three survivors walked on stage to a standing ovation and one of them shared how the abuse drastically altered her life.
“It ruined me and I built a wall around myself. I turned to drugs and alcohol and wanted to end my life,” said the victim, whom EastIdahoNews.com is not naming. “I lost hope and was shattered.”
Following the emotional speech, Natalie Heberd of the Eastern Idaho Technical College Foundation surprised the young women with $1,000 scholarships.
“We will be with you every step of the way,” Heberd said as the crowd applauded. “We support you.”
Morgan said he hopes his organization will help grow awareness of Idaho’s need for greater resources for healing and better education on the signs perpetrators use in “grooming” their victims.
“Groomers often befriend and establish an emotional connection with a child, and sometimes the family, to lower the child’s inhibitions around the abuser,” said Lorie Brisbin of the National Institute of Corrections.
In Idaho, there were 431 reports of child sexual abuse in 2016, according to the Idaho Attorney General.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse and need help, the following resources are available:
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453
Idaho Cares: Dial 2-1-1
DVSAC Crisis Line: 208-235-2412
Family Crisis Center: (208) 356-0065