The CAC provides services for child abuse victims and their families in a child-friendly environment, which serves as a centralized location for interviewing and specializes in working with children who are victims of sexual abuse.
The children are interviewed by specially-trained forensic interviewers, and the cases are managed by a Multi-Disciplinary Team comprised of Tuscarawas County Children's Services Workers, Tuscarawas County Prosecutors, Tuscarawas County Sheriff's Detectives, Mental Health Providers and Representatives, Victim Advocates, The Tuscarawas County Child Advocacy Director, local law enforcement officers, and Medical Providers from Akron Children's Hospital CARE Center are now part of the team.
The main objectives of coordinating the investigative efforts through the CAC are to: 1) provide a child-friendly supportive atmosphere for children and families; 2) assure that interviewers and investigators of child abuse are specially trained forensic interviewers that participate in ongoing state of the arc training and peer review sessions; 3) provide case review that maximizes communication between multiple agencies to assure that each child victim is receiving the most appropriate services, and the investigative process moves along through the systems; and 4) determine the cause of abuse and related facts.
• To increase child health and wellness by conducting forensic interviews and connecting to mental health and medical examinations; • To support the victim and non-offending family members by offering better coordinated services, such as medical exams, forensic interviews, and victim assistance; • To increase the effectiveness of services to child abuse victims; • To reduce the number of multiple interviews for victims of child sexual abuse by doing a forensic interview; To prevent further child abuse through community education and outreach.
What to Expect
Your child is here because of concerns about possible abuse. Our goals are to:
• Do the best job possible in finding out what happened, • Help you understand the child protective and legal systems, • Facilitate the systems to work together to help the child, • Help make the process as comfortable as possible for your child and you, • Help your children and family begin to heal.
We hope this section will help you understand more about child sexual abuse. We also hope it will help you understand the system we use to respond to a report of abuse. Please call us at Tuscarawas County Child Advocacy Center at 330-364-2777 or the Children Services Social Work Supervisor at 330-339-7791, extension 200, if you have questions.
• The Interview • The Investigation • Our Team of Professionals • Working with Professionals in the System • What to Say to Others • How to Act Towards Your Child • Things You Can Do • What to Expect Afterwords
Children and families come into the CAC and are immediately greeted by a huge, colorful mural on the stairwell wall, painted by local artist Teresa Prince. The waiting room is stocked with stuffed animals, a child-sized table, art supplies, and other child-friendly items. Adjacent to the waiting area is an interview room, where a trained investigator may first interview parents or others involved in the child’s life before the child’s interview takes place. The interview process is video-taped and played in the observation room on a computer screen, where team members are gathered for evaluation and input.
Facts about the interview
Often the forensic interviewer, the social worker or law enforcement will speak with the caregiver prior to conducting the interview. At times, you may be asked to wait while your child is being questioned. Being left out of some of the proceedings can make you feel as if you are not very important to the process or to your child. Please be assured that you are very important. In fact, you may be the key to understanding what has happened. The forensic interviewers are highly trained and follow protocols which allow the child to share information in a very factual and non-leading approach. The interviewers will take the time to make sure your child is comfortable with them. This means letting your child see you with the interviewer and making sure that your child knows where you will be during the interview. It should be made clear to the child that you are available, if necessary. The process does not encourage parents to sit in on the interview because the information the child may share may be more accurate if you are not there. In your presence, your child may be unwilling to tell important details because he/she wants to spare you from hearing them. And sometimes parents can't control their emotions at what they hear, or they may place pressure on the child to tell in a way that can complicate the legal process. Following the interview you will be given an opportunity to speak with the interviewer and given information about what needs the child may have, what services are available, and what will happen next.
Facts about the investigation
Following are the basic steps to an investigation of child sexual abuse:
1. Someone reports suspicion of abuse to authorities, either a law enforcement officer, department or Tuscarawas County Children Services. 2. Interviews with the child are conducted, usually at the Child Advocacy Center. Interviews are conducted by specially-trained forensic interviewers, with the 3. participation of local law enforcement, victim advocate, CAC Director and, if deemed necessary, a representative of the Tuscarawas County Prosecutor’s Office. 4. Medical exams are coordinated following the interview. 5. Law Enforcement and Tuscarawas County Children Services will continue the investigation, which will include an interview with the alleged offender, if possible. 6. A MDT of professionals will meet to discuss the case and decide how to manage it. The team consists of medical professionals, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, social workers and mental health professionals. Meeting participants agree to abide by the Tuscarawas County CAC’s confidentiality agreement to keep all information from meetings private. 7. The case may be referred to the Prosecuting Attorney and/or Juvenile or Criminal Court, or another plan may be made for managing the case.
Our team of professionals
In Tuscarawas County, we are fortunate to have a highly trained team of professionals which meets every month to respond to child abuse reports. The roles of the team members are described below:
The Case Worker: The role of Tuscarawas County Children Services is to help protect your child. The social workers and case workers conduct interviews and develop safety plans. They may refer you and/or your child to a wide array of services.
The Law Enforcement Officer: The Tuscarawas County CAC team includes investigators from all local law enforcement agencies. They interview children, non-offending parents, suspects and other witnesses, and gather evidence from the scene of the alleged event.
The Victim Advocate: The Victim Advocate provides support and information to the family on the investigative process and potentially may help prepare a child for the lengthy legal proceedings. Main duties include coordinating court preparation and helping the victims and families understand the legal process. The Victim Advocate may provide support and information, assist with referrals and help keep the family informed regarding the court process. They often meet with families while the child is being interviewed and provide support as the case moves through the legal system. This person is a trained professional whose role is to help the child and family, they assist with connecting the family to victim services.
The Therapist: Mental health professionals (therapists) on the team help decide how the abuse has affected the child and family and what can be done to assist them in healing from the experience. The Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Tuscarawas County and the Tuscarawas County Child Advocacy Center has been instrumental in training local providers in trauma focused care for victims of child abuse and domestic violence.
The Child Advocacy Director: The TCCAC director helps coordinate the investigative process at the CAC, provides information and support to children and families, helps determine appropriate resources for the child and family and tracks the movement of the case. The director also provides education and support to families, agencies and community members.
The Prosecutor: Leader of the team who has the final decision as to whether charges will be filed. In order to make decision, the age and maturity of the child, the child’s ability to testify are some of the factors considered on the likelihood of success in the court.
The Physician or Medical Examiner: Children who disclose abuse are referred to a medical provider following the interview. Indications of sexual abuse, physical abuse or other concerns are referred for treatment based on the indications and needs of the child. Our state of the art tele-health program allows us to refer children to the local, New Philadelphia office of Akron Children's Hospital to be seen by Child Abuse Experts. Acute or severe cases are typically seen at Akron Children’s Hospital Emergency Department, and older youth (16 years and up) can be seen at Union Hospital in the SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) program. Those who do not need specialized care are seen by local pediatricians, gynecologists or can be seen at the Tuscarawas County Health Department, to complete the medical exam.
Working with Professionals in the System
• Be calm and reassuring to your child. Don't coach your child on what to say. It is important for the story to come out in your child's words and in your child's own time. • When you are asked for information, try to provide as many facts as you can. Cases are built on the four W's: who, what, when and where. Don't try to guess if you don't know the answer to a question— it is much better to say you don't know. • On the other hand, your feelings are important. Feelings are valuable in giving investigators insight, so tell how you feel and why you feel that way. Although only facts are allowed in court, feelings can help give investigators ideas for how to proceed. • Always be honest, even though the truth may not seem favorable to yourself or others. In the long run, you and your child will be much better off. • Try not to overreact. It is a difficult time and emotions are probably running high. Losing control can hurt the case and over-shadow the needs of the innocent victim, your child. • Cooperate. You will probably feel as if investigators are prying into your personal life, but this is necessary and vital to the case and to your child's welfare. The sooner the facts come out, the sooner the case can be resolved and you can return to a more normal life. • You may feel that investigators do not care because they avoid showing emotions. In fact, investigators do care, and part of that caring involves remaining objective and calm in the face of extremely emotional situations. • Love, support and protect your child at all costs. If the alleged offender is a significant person to you, it can be very difficult to balance your feelings for him with the need to protect your child. Remember that your child has only you to make healthy, protective decisions.
What to say to others
One challenge your family will face will be what to say to others about the abuse. Your child may feel embarrassed and/or responsible. If there is no publicity or public awareness, you can decide whom you will tell. Let your child know with which relatives or friends you will be discussing it and let your child have some choice about who is told.
Sometimes an extended family member is the first person to learn of the abuse. You may feel hurt that someone knew before you. However, understand that your child may have been trying to protect your feelings by telling someone else. Your child may have felt that person could tell you in a less upsetting way than he or she could.
If you are especially close to your family, you will probably want to talk with them about your child's abuse and how it has affected the family. It is important to keep in mind how these relatives usually react to stressful situations. Their reactions may include hysteria, horror, obvious distress, sincere concern, embarrassment, disgust, disinterest or unnecessary questioning for intimate details. If you know they will react in a negative way, you may not want to share the information with them unless it becomes necessary. It is important to maintain your child's sense of privacy. On the other hand, be careful not to make it a dirty secret, as this could cause more shame in your child.
Reference: When Your Child Has Been Molested, by Kathryn B. Hagans & Joyce Case
How to act toward your child
Provide safety, love and support. Let them know it is okay to cry or be mad. Make sure your child understands it is not his or her fault. Don't coach or pressure your child to talk about things.
Some things you can say that will really help your child:
• I believe you. • I know it's not your fault. • I'm glad I know about it. • I'm sorry this happened to you. • I will take care of you. • I'm not sure what will happen next. • Nothing about YOU made this happen. It has happened to other children, too. • You don't need to take care of me. • I am upset, but not with you. • I'm angry at the person who did this. • I'm sad. You may see me cry. That's all right. I will be able to take care of you. I'm not mad at you. • I don't know why he/she did it. He/she has a problem. • You can still love someone but hate what they did to you
Some things you can do
• Return to a normal routine as soon as possible. • See that your child receives therapy as soon as possible. Trying to sweep the problem under the rug usually causes more problems because it will not go away. • Find help for yourself. You don't have to do it all yourself. Taking care of your self allows you to better care for your child! • Teach your child the rules of personal safety. Tell them what to do if someone tries to touch them in an uncomfortable way. • Be careful not to question your child about the abuse. If you do, you can jeopardize the case in court against your child's abuser. Specially trained professionals at the Children Advocacy Center interview your child to obtain the necessary information without harming the case or further traumatizing him/her. If your child wants to talk about it, listen and be supportive, but do not probe. • Keep your child away from the person suspected of the abuse. This is to protect you, that person and the child. • Avoid discussing the case with other victims or their families. • Never coach or advise your child on how to act or what to say to professionals or investigators. This could seriously damage the case. • Avoid the suspect. • Your child may need an extra sense of physical security. Stay close, and assure your child you will keep him/her safe. • Remember to give attention to your other children.
What to expect afterward
It is highly recommended that children who have been sexually abused receive mental health counseling and follow-up services. We will do everything we can to help you find the right provider and a good fit for you and your child. There are many local therapists training in dealing with the trauma associated with Child Abuse and sexual abuse in particular. The TCCAC, Children's Services and the Alcohol and Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Tuscarawas County are all good resources to help connect you to qualified providers. If you decide not to pursue counseling, you should be attentive for the following issues which might arise in your child after he/she has been sexually abused, even if he/she seems or says she/he is “fine” after the abuse. Some of these may include - · Post-traumatic stress disorder · Depression or mood swings · Eating disorders · Substance use and abuse · Sleep disorders · Anxiety disorders · Behavioral issues, defiance, anger and juvenile delinquency · Participation in unsafe sexual activities or inappropriately sexualized behavior
Children who do not receive appropriate treatment are at risk for developing mulitple physical health problems as well as mental health issues. We may not be able to change the past - but we can change the future! Proper care and follow up in dealing with the issues of abuse, neglect, trauma, and withness to domestic violence and drug addiction are critical in the long term health and well-being of your child. Our links page has a number of local community and national resources or please contact the TCCAC for more information.