Home » News » Public Safety
Child Advocacy Centers offer safe place for abused to begin healing
The walls of the Child Advocacy Center in Manchester are covered with the handprints of the children who have come through these doors to tell their stories. (Shawne K. Wickham/Union Leader)
It's a powerful symbol of courage and healing and a sobering reminder of how widespread child sexual abuse remains.
There are now about 750 CACs across the country.
Before such places existed, Palestino said, children who disclosed sexual abuse would have to tell their stories repeatedly, to school nurses, social workers, police, doctors and therapists.
And some details might change with every new telling, she said. "That's reasonable doubt. So the cases were going nowhere, and children were looked at as not being reliable."
"This is not just difficult for the child; this is rocking the world of the whole family. And if we don't right out of the gate get support and help to those family members, denial is very powerful, and it's very easy to say, 'There's no way that this happened.'"
"I would focus on getting just enough information from the child to be able to see who did this and then try to build a case against this person based on statements, confessions, those types of things."
"Now it's a team approach," he said. "We're all learning from each other how to best serve the child."
Research also shows a strong correlation between childhood sexual abuse and later problems, such as mental illness, substance abuse, crime, domestic violence, even poverty, Palestino said. However, the incidence of such problems drops significantly if a child is believed and helped, she said.
But after her friend finally told her mother what had happened, Sachs found herself at the Child Advocacy Center in Derry. Her interviewer was Kristie Palestino.
"Finally, although I was scared to tell, it was almost like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders because I didn't have to keep that inside anymore," she said.
After two years of legal wrangling, Sachs' attacker pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault and spent 27 days in jail.
Sachs also tells her own story now, hoping to inspire other young victims to come forward. Her message to children who are keeping terrible secrets: "The earlier you tell, the earlier that healing process starts."
Indeed, Palestino said statistics show that only one of 10 children who are sexually abused comes forward to tell. That means for every child represented by those 2,000 pinwheels last week at the State House, "there are nine other ones that are out there suffering in silence."
That's also what the Beat the Odds campaign is for, Palestino said. "This is what we need to talk about," she said. "Let's not keep it a secret anymore."
READER COMMENTS: 0
- Injured dirt bike rider in ICU - 0
- Woman who jumped in front of Amtrak train identified - 0
- Busy day for White Mountain National Forest rescuers - 0
- Franklin convenience store damaged by fire - 0
- Derry firefighters commended; fire investigation continues - 0
- Deadly crash driver: 'I was distracted' - 0
- Tactical team takes man, 71, into custody - 0
- Hudson rider misses jump, crashes bike - 0
- Injured hiker carried to safety off Mount Israel in Sandwich - 0
READER COMMENTS: 0
- After flap over 'racist' comment, no call for Lincoln planner to resign from board - 5
- Review of West High intruder case to be behind closed doors - 1
- Another View -- Daniel Barrick: Manchester's schools face some serious challenges - 0
- Racism in Lincoln? Looks more like ignorance - 2
- Representing whom? Jeanne Shaheen, leftist icon - 8
- Chiefly, Pats are horrible in Monday night blowout in K.C. - 0
- NHIAA Roundup: Double-overtime goal sends Goffstown past John Stark in boys' soccer - 0
- UNH gridders jump one spot in national polls - 0
- Dave D'Onofrio's Sox Beat: Offseason needs aplenty - 0
Dredging planned for Milford's Osgood Pond
Racism in Lincoln? Looks more like ignorance