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The Lisa Project is an eye opener
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All I knew about The Lisa Project was that it had something to do with showing child abuse through the eyes of the victims.

So Thursday I set a time to meet with Child Abuse Prevention Council of San Joaquin County Director Gene Hardin to find out more. After all, it’s hard to miss the massive black modular that seemed to just appear in the parking lot at The Promenade Shops overnight.

But rather than explaining it to me in detail, he handed me an iPod shuffle, turned up the volume, and told me he’d see me in about 25 minutes.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I heard, saw and felt during that time frame.

What The Lisa Project does is flood your senses to give you a realistic depiction of what some abused children face daily – putting you in their living room, their bedroom, their bathroom as a narrator explains the scene and the happenings in detail. You hear the voice of the child. You feel like you’re there.

The first room that I walked into was a dingy drug-filled apartment that looked like it belonged in an Alphabet City tenement. Snubbed out joints were right on the table and the smell of marijuana penetrated my sense of smell. Empty bottles of Vicodin sat on the table in what was supposed to be a kitchen – overflowing with dirty dishes. A mini meth lab with an exposed flame flickered against the wall. The refrigerator was open and empty.

And this is where a young child spent all of his time.

It was disturbing. I actually felt dirty and almost ashamed that I was standing there staring at this horrible place – knowing full well in the back of my mind that there are places like this right here in San Joaquin County and that it’s easier for me to just not think about it.

That’s what this tour does though – it forces you to think about it. I had only been into one of a handful of scenarios and it had already struck a chord.

The next room where a young boy was constantly cut down by his mother for little things like leaving his toys and his crayons out on the table – being constantly bombarded with reminders that he’s not good enough and he’ll never amount to anything. The kind of abuse that often goes unnoticed, or at least unreported, but the kind that can have severe lasting consequences.

After all, how are you going to be a productive member of society when you don’t think that you’re worth anything?

There was the bathroom where a budding teenage girl was sexually assaulted by her father, and where a young boy was inappropriately touched by his mother but didn’t know how to do anything to stop it.

And there was the bedroom where the teenage girl from the upper middle class family was toiling with the physical abuse from not only her father, but her new boyfriend. The pictures on the walls and the cheerleading uniforms and the brightly colored decorations painted the picture of a bright and happy young lady, but the voice coming over the earphones told the story of someone very different.

It showed that abuse doesn’t discriminate. Park Avenue to Park Bench. It’s real.

I came out at the end and I was speechless. It took me a while to gather my thoughts to ask Gene the questions that I needed to piece together a profile, still dumbfounded at the vivid imagery that the tour had painted in my mind.

Whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, a teacher, an aunt, an uncle or just somebody that wants to learn more about how abuse impacts the lives of children, this is something that you’re not going to want to miss. It’ll tug at your heartstrings, flood your brain with emotions and leave you wondering what you can do to help.

After all, each one of the scenes depicted are taken from actual case files that happened right here in San Joaquin County. The names and the faces might not be real, but the stories are.

And maybe with a little bit of education just one of these examples can be cut off at the pass next time.

One can only hope.

There is some graphic imagery and some strong language on the self-guided tour. Mature subjects are discussed.