Two agencies help victims of sexual abusePublished 8:04pm Thursday, November 21, 2013
A pair of Lake Martin Area United Way agencies aim to help out children who have been through the traumatic experience of sexual abuse.
The Tri-County Children’s Advocacy Center in Alexander City and the Talladega County Child Advocacy Center (Palmer Place) help battle child sexual abuse and provide services for victims.
“We’re a non-profit organization that works with child victims of crime, primarily child abuse,” said Margi Barnes, director of the Tri-County Children’s Advocacy Center. “We have a joint working agreement with law enforcement, DHR and the district attorney’s office
in investigating cases of child abuse.”
Barnes said children go through an interview process in a child-friendly environment in order to help law enforcement and get the victim through the traumatic experience.
“We provide forensic interviews when there’s been an initial disclosure of abuse. Then we provide follow up counseling that is free of charge to the victim and their families,” Barnes said. “The forensic interviews are done by a trained professional, and they’re interviews that hold up in a court setting. We do these types of interviews once so the children aren’t led to say anything that is untrue, and also so the child is not interviewed multiple times.”
Nancy Green is the executive director and a forensic interviewer for the Talladega County Child Advocacy Center, which also serves Coosa County.
Green said the center also partners with law enforcement.
“We work as a multi-disciplinary team with law enforcement, the district attorney and Department of Human Resources,” Green said. “We provide a child-friendly environment to interview and provide services to child abuse victims. Basically, we interview the children, we provide counseling, forensic evaluation and follow the case through the court process.”
Green echoed Barnes’ sentiment of not having the child recount their traumatic experience repeatedly.
“The benefit of the multi-disciplinary team approach and also having the child advocacy center is that the child doesn’t have to tell what has happened to them over and over again,” Green said. “They tell it to one person and then the rest of the team can observe what that child is saying. We do our interviews through closed-circuit TV, but we don’t record them. The child only has to face one person to tell their story and is not further traumatized.”
Barnes said the United Way is crucial in helping the advocacy center provide its services to victims.
“United Way has been very faithful in giving to us financially. They provide money to us so that we can continue to treat these children,” Barnes said. “We have two and half staff, which makes it very difficult for us to go out and fund raise. With United Way support, we’re able to keep these services for Tallapoosa County.”
Green said organizations like the United Way help keep the center’s services free.
“Every child advocacy is strapped for funding – there’s been cuts across the board – so United Way just helps fill that gap and provides a little bit of funding along the way to help us,” Green said.