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Simpatico Theatre Project is honored to partner with Philadelphia Children’s Alliance for our production of In a Dark Dark House. We strive to go beyond engaging audiences during our productions and encourage further dialogue about the issues incited in our work. We chose PCA to be our production partner in hopes of promoting a healthy conversation about the issue of child sexual abuse for everyone involved. Our goal is to educate our audiences and leave them with hope and the tools to confront this difficult issue. We reached out to PCA’s Executive Director Chris Kirchner to get her insight on the issue of child sexual abuse and her reaction to In a Dark Dark House. We hope you enjoy getting a deeper look into Philadelphia Children’s Alliance and the powerful connection that these partnerships can create.
ALI NEBISTINSKY – What is the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance and who do you serve?
CHRIS KIRCHNER – We are a nonprofit agency that works with various agencies to coordinate the investigation of child sexual abuse cases in Philadelphia, to ensure that children receive a coordinated response that puts all of their needs first.
ALI – What is the alliance currently doing to promote healing and justice in the Philadelphia Community?
CHRIS – We are co-located with the Special Victims Unit of the Police, sex abuse social workers from DHS, prosecutors, and medical and mental health professionals, in a welcoming and child-friendly facility. An average of 150 children come here each month where they are interviewed about the allegations by one of our interview specialists. Children will also be receiving medical exams on site once our new medical program is up and running in the summer of 2014. Our victim advocates meet with the child and their caregiver to provide crisis intervention and to ensure that they family’s questions are answered and they know what to expect from the investigation. We also provide long term therapy on site.
ALI – What is your history with the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, and how did you get involved in this work?
CHRIS – I have a master’s degree in social work, and answered an ad in the Inquirer in 1992 for this position! I was very interested in the issue of child sexual abuse as there were several high profile cases in the news, and I had a few cases in my early years as a child welfare social worker. I also want to say that this issue has touched my family, both my maternal and paternal sides. So it is something that I wanted to do for all the kids impacted by this, but also something personal.
ALI – After seeing the production, what are you most excited to have PCA bring to our partnership?
CHRIS – Your wonderfully done production shines a light on the long term impact of child sexual abuse. Sexual abuse of children is a topic that can be difficult to discuss, and due to confidentiality laws we cannot talk publicly about the hundreds (really thousands) of cases we see each year. We rely, to an extent, on stories from adult survivors to help us all understand how damaging abuse, left untreated, can be. In A Dark Dark House is one of these stories, and in addition to demonstrating the impact of abuse, I hope that our partnership will remind everyone that there are victims of child abuse coming forward every day in our City. We owe it to them to listen to them and to do whatever we can to stop the abuse, keep them safe, and put them on a path toward healing.
ALI – How did your view of the play change from when you first read it to when you saw the full production?
CHRIS – It was great to read the play in advance, but the true essence of the play did not hit me until I saw the live production. The issues of child abuse, family violence, and the negative legacy that a parent can leave a child, all come across in a heart wrenching way that can only be felt with the live production.
ALI – If you had the opportunity to follow up with these men several months after the play ends, what would you hope to see from them? How would you advise and support them?
CHRIS – Wow, good question. I would hope to see that perhaps their interactions (in the play) had led them each to a better understanding of where the other is coming from, and as a result perhaps improved their relationship, if only slightly. I had a slight sense of hopefulness as the play ended that they were going to be in a better place. But I also know that they were dealing with deep, and dark issues, that would not go away overnight.
ALI – Why is it important for people who have not been sexually abused to hear this story and support an organization like PCA?
CHRIS – I hope that adult survivors will find some comfort in the fact that, as a society, we have (partially) woken up to the impact of sexual abuse on our children, and we are doing something about that. I hope that everyone, survivors and non-survivors alike, will think about overall impact in society when 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Everyone can take a step, from making a monetary donation to PCA (we raise about 1/3 of our budget from donations!), to educating themselves about the issue, reporting abuse when they suspect it (1-800-932-0313), and talking about the problem with their friends. We are so grateful for this partnership with Simpatico, you guys are amazing!!
To find out more about the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance visit here. If you would like to help a family in need we are accepting Grocery Store gift cards to help PCA provide food and refreshments for families during their visits. Gift cards can be dropped off at Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5 prior to any performance through June 1st or mailed to: Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, 300 E Hunting Park Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19124.