by Babs Cape –
An abused child pulls at our heart strings. How can we help children suspected of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse or those who have witnessed a violent crime? Where is a safe place for young victims to disclose their abuse? Who knows how to comfort them while working for justice and safety?
Recently, ten Seeds of Strength members learned from advocates for young people when we visited the Williamson County Child Advocacy Center. These child-trained professionals receive suspected victims from law enforcement agencies, Child Protective Services and prosecutors. With one-on-one forensic interviews and medical exams, all in a non-intimidating manner, the extent of abuse can be determined, and trauma can be treated. Children from under 1 to age 17 have come to them for relief.
Located in a homey house, complete with resident comfort dog Charlie and a staff of 25 headed by Kerrie Stannell, the Center strives to reduce the trauma involved and to offer professional services, all at no charge. Jennifer Deazvedo led us through the facilities’ interview and counseling rooms, a crisis closet and to the in-house examining room. Here is the center of attention, the Cortexflo made possible with our Seeds of Strength grant.
The Cortexflo is a state-of-the-art camera designed to meet the unique photographic and video requirements to conduct forensic medical examinations of children (and adults) who have suffered sexual and physical abuse. With this camera, a forensic nurse can photograph a victim’s body to document the extent of injury and current condition for criminal cases. It is less invasive and provides high-definition photos, ideal for pediatric patients and for peer review.
The new camera brings a new acronym: SANE = Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners operate the new camera. In this setting, new information sometimes becomes available. If that happens, the nurse can testify verbatim in court to further the prosecution or the exoneration of a suspect. Note: Seeds of Strength provided for the first nurse at the center with our 2016 grant. Before the SANE program, forensic evidence could only be gathered in Austin or Temple. It has been an enormous addition to the center.
Ms. Stannell explained that the work done every day at the Advocacy center is hard. Hearing about hurt children, seeing their bruises, and hearing their stories is difficult. But, we keep coming back day after day because children are resilient and families do heal. We show up each day and feel honored to be part of the process, to bear witness to transformations, to give ‘high-fives’ and to celebrate. Here at WCCAC we are privileged to create a safe and comforting atmosphere for these families.
WCCAC provides additional critical services to children and families in distress through its Child Safe Program, its Outreach program, and its Family Advocacy Program. SoS members made a good decision when they voted to partner with WCCAC in aiding the abused children in our community.