“We walked into a room with a couch, a TV, lots of movies, coloring books, games, stuffed animals, snacks, and handprints on the wall. I liked it in that room. I felt comfy.”
It Is Not Your Crime
Do you know what a children’s advocacy center is? Do you have one in your town? Do you know where it is? I hope the answer to all those questions is, YES! If you’re not sure what an advocacy center is, or if you think it is the children’s shelter (it’s not – but that’s another great organization) let me tell you about them.
Basically a children’s advocacy center or CAC is the ’emergency service’ for child abuse. Just like we all know where the closest emergency room is in case of a medical emergency, we should all know where our children’s advocacy center is and demand any child reporting abuse be taken there. Just like an emergency room is set up to handle any medical crisis, the advocacy center is perfectly set up to handle any child abuse crisis. Unlike an emergency room though, instead of walking into a cold sterile room, you may think you’ve accidentally walked onto the Candyland board game. Advocacy centers are perfectly set up for children, and children of all ages, because when a child is hurt it doesn’t really matter if they are 5 or 15 a comfy chair, goldfish snacks, and a Disney movie probably sound pretty good.
Unlike an emergency room, you won’t be confronted with the stares of strangers. At an advocacy center, you’re going to be greeted with a welcome smile that will make you immediately think the unbearable might just be a little more tolerable here. There’s no funny smells, loud noises, or people rushing around because here it is calm, peaceful, and most importantly – safe. Don’t worry though, behind the advocacy center’s warmth is a state-of-the-art fully functioning facility equipped for medical exams, forensic interviews, and mental health services. The advocacy center’s staff are some of the kindest people you will ever meet, but behind those sweet smiles, they are highly trained experts in child abuse – they are just also experts in warmth and compassion.
The best way to describe it though is to hear it from a child. Listen as Sarah describes visiting an advocacy center…
“When I walked through the Benton County CAC’s doors for the first time, I was immediately grateful that a place like this exists for kids who need it. Natalie, the director, greeted me with the sincerest of smiles and showed me around the center. I am usually very wary of meeting new people, but following Natalie around the CAC, I knew almost at once that she is someone I can trust. She showed me the different colorful and playful waiting rooms, some of which had families sitting in there waiting for therapy. I thought about how for years I was fortunate enough to get free counseling from a CAC. Natalie told me that the Benton County CAC has provided over 1,800 free counseling services this year. Which is both incredible and heartbreaking…That day, Natalie showed me that there are people out there who do care about what survivors have to say. People, who like me, are done accepting things for the way they are and are working towards the way things should be. People who share my goal of ending child abuse and making sure that every child is defended and protected. Please support her and the Advocacy Center. They not only provide amazing services to children and their families, but they are also experts highly trained to ensure that a case is properly handled, so that true findings can lead to a successful prosecution.“
Who Will You Choose To Empower by Sarah C. Wilde
You can read the rest of Sarah’s speech here. If you’re blessed to have an advocacy center in your community, please support them. If you don’t have one, then you need one and the perfect person to do that – is you 🙂
Please know your state’s child abuse hotline number but always dual report by calling the hotline number AND your local police department and then demand the child be taken to a children’s advocacy center. If a child tells you they have been hurt, you need the experts – you need the ’emergency service’ for child abuse.