Children who witness domestic abuse or its aftermath are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with depression. Others can suffer from behavioral problems, as well as increased drug and alcohol abuse. Those numbers are disheartening, but thankfully, they don’t represent all kids who’ve lived through a domestic violent situation. Organizations like Spruce Run out of Bangor are doing their best to make sure children aren’t just surviving their ordeal, they’re overcoming it. Joy Hollowell concludes her special report on children of domestic violence.************ “When anyone hears about domestic abuse, they think about the children first. And how is this impacting the children,” says Francine Stark. Francine Stark is the training coordinator for Spruce Run in Bangor. The organization helps people, including kids who are affected by domestic violence. “Our focus on kids from the very first minute we meet them is to try to help them feel as safe as possible,” says Stark. Stark says even if an abuser leaves their children alone, they still suffer effects of domestic violence. “Kids are afraid, what’s going to happen? They’ve heard their other parent sometimes threaten to kill them, or I’m going to take the kids and you’ll never see them again. Unfortunately, abusers use children as pawns, they don’t allow children to have that kind of predictability, stability sense of safety and choice that they deserve,” says Stark. Spruce Run works to give that back. “When we have groups going on for the parents, we have a group for the kids. The focus of the group with the parents is how am I going get through the day. The focus of the group with kids is, what can we do for fun,” says Stark. The whole idea, says Stark, is to give them a new focus, one that isn’t full of crisis. More importantly, it gives these kids a choice. “It’s important for us to know that our life experiences are our history, not our destiny.” This group is known as Stand Up Kids. They have all experienced some sort of domestic abuse in their young lives, which is why we’re not showing their faces. “Most of them had come through our shelter and they’ve written sort of like a welcome to the shelter book for other kids to take about what it’s like to be here, how things were for them,” says Stark. The kids have also baked cookies for fire fighters, and visited seniors in nursing homes. “It’s a great way to sort of pay forward the good things that they’d had happen to them in their life and try to reach out to help others,” says Stark. Stark says she’s amazed at how many success stories comes out of Spruce Run. “Children love their parents, even if they’ve done something bad. But they want the bad behavior to go away. So they’re hopeful, but it’s a complicated ride. The important thing is that kids quickly come around when they’re in a circumstance where in fact they’re safe, safe people are available to them and they get the kind of support that they deserve,” says Stark.************************* If you are in an abusive situation, there is a statewide hotline number that you can call 24 hours a day. It’s 866-84 4help. Spruce Run also has a hotline. That number is 1-800-863-9909. On March 28th, Spruce Run is holding its annual silent auction and dessert party. It takes place at the Buchanan Alumni house at the University of Maine in Orono. Tickets are 15-dollars each. For more information, call 945-5102.