I had occasion to visit one of my former students while I was attending a professional conference on Cape Cod this week. Melanie Sachs, KSC class of 2013, saw my Facebook check-in and we were able to connect for coffee and a tour of the Children’s Cove Child Advocacy Center in Barnstable.
Melanie was in my Case Studies in Violence class in the 2013 Spring Semester. Her semester project was on Erin’s Law and the development of child advocacy centers, two topics about which she is passionate. Erin’s Law, named after Erin Merryn, a friend of Mel’s and a child sex abuse survivor, requires public schools, pre-K through 12) to provide age appropriate, prevention-centered child sexual abuse education to children, and educates teachers and parents about what to look for and what to do. It has now passed in 26 states (yay NH!) and pending in 17 others. About Erin’s Law
Child advocacy centers (CAC) provide services and support to child victims of sexual abuse and children who have witnessed domestic violence. The CAC model focuses on the needs of the children and their families (Mel is a family advocate). Interviews take place at the centers which have a homelike feel with lots of soft colors and toys, as opposed to police stations which can be scary and sometimes make the child feel that they are in trouble. The Children’s Cove CAC has 2 comfortable and quiet living rooms (waiting areas), one on the main floor where we entered, the other on the ground floor where the families enter. Children’s handprints decorate the walls in the stairwell that leads from the main floor to the ground floor to the interview areas. The handprints belong to the children who have come through this center and the walls are full. Yes, that many kids.
In each interview room there are 2 big comfy chairs, a table, a box of tissues and the obligatory video and audio equipment. One wall is a two way mirror that hides those behind it; those waiting to hear the disclosures of these little people who have endured things we should not even have to imagine.
We then moved up to the third floor as Mel introduced me to the staff members we encountered along the way. In (mental health health coordinator) Cherie’s office there is a locked door that leads into the examination room. CC employs a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) to avoid the trauma of the ER (unless an emergency of course) and this is her workspace. Cherie unlocked the door exposing a lovely soft yellow-green room with bright pictures, toys and a gyn exam table about 1/2 the size of one that would be used for an adult. This took my breath away. I experienced a profound sense of sadness that we needed to have a tiny little exam table for these tiny little children who have been preyed upon by adults with no concern for anything but their own hideous urges. The green frog socks over the stirrups and the stuffed frogs on the table did little to camouflage what happens there.
I am not feint of heart and have seen my share of the terrible things that happen in life, but this room, this table, made the horror of child sexual abuse real to me in a way I had not experienced before.
One in 4 girls and one in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. I encourage you to check out the awareness campaign at the link below. We can keep our children safe together.
#childrensadvocacycenters #children #childsexualabuse #keepthemsafe #cacs