No one deserves to be abused. We read in the paper stories about sexual assault, domestic violence, rape, bullying and even senior abuse. We wonder, but don't know, what we could do to help.

Last month, I attended the Prairie Angels Cluster meeting at Zion Lutheran Church and heard a very good speaker, Charlotte Linsner, director of Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services.

I became astonished to hear statistics such as:

* One in four females and one in six males are assaulted before age 18.

* 85 percent of abuse happens in the home.

* Agencies offering help are far between. There are only three offices serving 18 counties in northwest Kansas. Offices are in Hays, Colby and Phillipsburg.

Since 1983, Options has been assisting individuals and families for all ages who experience domestic or sexual abuse. Their mission is to work toward ending domestic and sexual violence through advocacy, education and services.

These services are free to people of all ages. All services are confidential and offer non-judgemental support. The program partially is funded by grant programs, which come from local, state or federal sources. Also, they receive funding from United Way of Ellis County.

If we sit back, ignore the problem and say "It's none of our business," the problem will continue. We need to educate ourselves, volunteer, help support agencies and be an advocate.

Learning gives you power, not knowing leaves you powerless. Educate yourself, your family, teach children respect for themselves and each other. Also know your rights, plan ahead and be prepared. It is up to you; you have to take the first step, make contact and ask for help.

Confidentiality and safety are Options' primary concerns for you; they respect your right to privacy and will not share information with anyone without your permission.

How can we help? Educate ourselves about the effects of domestic and sexual abuse/violence. Knowledge is the most powerful tool we have to make a lasting changes. To learn more, call (785) 625-4202 or visit www.help4abuse.org.

Volunteers are vital and fulfill a variety of services, ranging from answering the crisis line to manning a booth at a health fair. For more information, call a volunteer coordinator at (785) 625-4202.

Individual or organization donations always are appreciated. Call Linsner at (785) 625-4202.

An advocate is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.

I was touched by the compassionate speaker and I hope I have brought the problem to your attention. Now you can't say "I didn't know" or "No one told me." We all need to learn, promote and support the services of Options.

Let's keep the Options agency in our prayers because no one deserves to be abused, and they are here to help those in need.

Opal Flinn is a member of the Generations advisory committee.