Combating Child Abuse - One City at a Time
The Legacy of Aliahna Lemmon
On December 22, 2011 nine-year-old Aliahna Lemmon was beaten to death with a brick and then dismembered by 39-year-old Michael Plumadore in a trailer park in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Adding to the shock of this event was the fact that there were 14 registered sex offenders living in that one trailer park. One of those sex offenders was Aliahna's own grandfather until his death earlier in the month.
This was one of four cases of child abuse in Fort Wayne that had garnered national attention. The first was April Tinsley, age 6, who died on Good Friday, April 1, 1988. The second was Sarah Bowker, age 7, who was reported missing June 13, 1990. She was found about 2 p.m. June 14, lying face-down in a drainage ditch just south of the apartment complex. The third case was that of Alejandra Gutierrez, who, on December 5, 2005 was on her way to the bus stop to go to her fifth-grade classes at Maplewood Elementary. She never made it. The father of a friend confessed to raping and killing her and dumping her body in a field outside Muncie, Indiana.
Creating an Outlet for Victims
It was the most recent incident, that of Aliahna Lemmon, that gave local activist, columnist and award-winning film maker Terry Doran the idea to create a center that would not only honor the memory of those children who had been abused, but would also serve to provide healing for others who have suffered abuse or bullying.
This city can lead the country in showing that we can be better than these statistics show. Channel your anger and disgust into something positive.
I envision a citywide effort, not just the big shots and the ribbon-cutters, but for once everyone, all the ethnic groups, liberals, conservatives, old, young, rich, poor, the tea party would join forces with Occupy Fort Wayne. If we can’t put aside differences and dark prejudices to come together for the most helpless among us, what good are we?
I certainly am not the only one wanting to create a memorial. In a recent meeting with Mayor Tom Henry, he offered his support and summed up the need simply but eloquently, “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.”
Terry has suggested it be "a building that is environmentally friendly, powered by solar energy and natural light, and located in the downtown area. It would be a place for healing, meditating, thinking, talking, fun, discussing, a retreat, a place for artistic expression."
The Three Rivers Art Center for Kids (TRACK for short) would inspire a community of learners through interactive exhibits and learning experiences, a place where children and families can learn and grow together. What better place to provide awareness and preventative education than a safe learning environment that can reach an entire community? Housed along the river in downtown Fort Wayne, an arts center can become a regional center for informal education for all children, parents, schools, teachers and church groups in the community.
Terry Doran and several others have joined forces to make this building a reality. As a beginning to this project they created a mural which was painted by a group of local children under the guidance of a professional mural artist. The completed mural will be display in places like the Allen County Public Library and other locations in the city.
To date TRACK had brought several speakers and performers to Fort Wayne to speak on the subject of child abuse. Among them was Katherine Reddick - whose scathing obituary of her mother garnered national attention - and Native American flutist John Two Hawks. TRACK has also produced several television programs on the topic.
Fort Wayne is only the beginning. There is no reason this idea couldn't spread across the nation. Why not consider such a project for your city?