Better Support Ahead for Child Sexual Assault Victims

12/28/2021

The 6th Judicial District is one of only three areas in Colorado that does NOT have a place where child sexual assault victims can receive help and support in one location. A local non-profit, 4 the Children, wants to change that. Sponsored by Kroeger's Ace Hardware and Downs, McDonough, Cowan and Foley

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The Sixth Judicial District is one of only three districts in Colorado that lacks a Child Advocacy Center to treat and support child sexual assault victims. 4 the Children, a local child advocacy organization, has launched a two-year, $500,000 fundraising campaign to create one. You're watching the Local News Network, brought to you by the law firm of Downs, McDonough, Cowan, and Foley, and Kroegers Ace Hardware. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. Local advocacy organizations estimate that more than 50 cases of child sexual assault or abuse are reported every year in the Sixth Judicial District. Another 100 cases go unreported. 4 the Children, a child advocacy non-profit, hopes to encourage more victims to come forward by creating a safe and supportive center where victims can receive services in one location. Right now, victims and their families may report to one agency, but then must go to an emergency room for medical treatment, talk with a social services representative, tell their stories once again to a law enforcement agency, perhaps a mental health provider, and to a judge in a courtroom. No wonder so many assault victims are reluctant to come forward, let alone continue to court.

We will accept a referral from law enforcement or from the Department of Human Services when a report has been made about child sexual assault or child sexual abuse. And when that happens, we will form our team. We'll have everybody come to one place, so the people are coming to the children, and it really makes them feel safe, and it really makes them feel heard, and they only have to tell their story once. Instead of having to go to the hospital, and having to go to the Department of Human Services, and having to go to the police station, they come here to a really warm and welcoming and friendly environment, and they have their forensic interview, and every child will be offered a medical exam as well to know that their body is safe and that their body is okay. And then we will have a team of, we have the team of investigators, and the prosecution team will also be here observing the forensic interview, so that they can then take the evidence that they need to create a case.

4 the Children's headquarters will be remodeled to create a medical exam room, counseling rooms, a forensics interview room with cameras, and an observation room where advocates, law enforcement, and child protection representatives can watch the interview on screen. All information collected will be turned over to the authorities, including the District Attorney's office, to prosecute the perpetrator and seek justice for victims and their families. Sixth Judicial District attorney Christian Champagne says he prosecutes an average of only 20 cases of child sexual assault each year, but he expects the Child Advocacy Center to bring more perpetrators to justice, and prevent further harm.

Yes, it's definitely going to help us with our ability to prosecute these cases. Having a Child Advocacy Center will help prepare these kids to face their perpetrators in the courtroom, will help prepare them to tell their story, and speak their truth, use their voice. And when we go to prosecute these cases, that becomes an absolutely critical asset for us to be successful.

When the Child Advocacy Center receives its national accreditation in three to five years, it will begin to receive state and federal funding to hire staff and cover operating costs, but for now, the center is relying on the fundraising campaign to build the facilities it needs, and to pay contracted providers.

By creating this resource and creating this program, we will at least give these children and these families hope that there is an opportunity to heal, and that they can move on and lead happy and healthy lives.

To learn more about the proposed Child Advocacy Center, or to donate to the campaign, visit 4, that's the number 4, thechild.org. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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