Nearly 700,000 children are abused and neglected in the United States each year. Five children die each day, sometimes by the hand of a stranger, oftentimes, by someone they love. One woman is taking her trauma and turning it into triumph by helping victims find their voice and bring awareness to a problem that is often silenced.
“A stranger drove up and had the passenger door open and asked if I liked candy,” Lori Poland, a kidnap survivor told Ivanhoe. “I was found four days later.” 38 years later, Poland is focused on changing the narrative about abuse. “It’s really seen as a very taboo topic,” Lori shared.
Lori launched ENDCAN. She wants to bring awareness that child abuse is not just a social issue, but a mental and public health issue as well.
“They range from physical health outcomes, such as cancer, heart disease, things of that nature, but also mental health outcomes too. So, they track things like depression, suicide, substance misuse,” explained Kimberly Renk, Ph.D., Psychologist at the University of Central Florida.
ENDCAN also gives survivors a place to share their story. By sharing her story, Lori also found more closure to her own. “I didn’t understand what was happening cause I was only five years old,” vocalized Heather Robinson-Ross, assault survivor.
About five months before Lori was kidnapped, the same man assaulted Heather. “Heather reached out to me two years ago and said to me, ‘You know, I’m sorry if I would have identified him, you wouldn’t have ever gotten taken.’ and I was like, sister, first of all, you were five. Um, not at all your responsibility,” explained Lori. The two are now working together writing a screenplay hoping their stories will help others move forward. “We’re all a part of this club that we don’t want to be a part of, but we’re here for each other,” said Heather.
Lori and Heather are ready to do what it takes to end the vicious cycle of child abuse.
At just three-years old Lori was able to identify her captor. After a plea deal, he served six years of a ten-year sentence. Lori says she doesn’t focus on finding justice, but for spearheading change. If you would like to find out more, learn how you can be part of the change, or share your story, .