New local center battles child abuse

Our community is working hard to prevent child abuse in its many forms. Lassen County is now officially home to Mikailia Child Advocacy Center which is designed to support children and their families during the process of investigating allegations with the goal of prosecution against those who prey upon children.

According to a website for Dolphin House, a CAC in Colorado: “A child advocacy center is a safe, non-threatening, child-friendly, facility-based program where representatives from various disciplines meet to discuss and make decisions about the intervention, investigation, and prosecution of child abuse cases.

“Professionals at the CAC also work to provide mental health assessments and referrals to trauma-trained clinicians — helping victims heal and become stable. The multidisciplinary team also works together to prevent further victimization of children and to improve community response to child abuse.”

The name Dolphin House was chosen for a center devoted to supporting traumatized children because dolphins have been observed to swim close together and form a sort of life raft in order to keep a sick or injured member of their pod afloat. In effect, rescuing them.

Michelle Latimer, coordinator and paralegal for former district attorney Stacey Montgomery, has had a vision for Lassen County to offer the services of a CAC since moving here in 2011.

Having previously worked with the aforementioned Dolphin House as part of a multi-disciplinary interview team, she understands the importance of the resources provided by a CAC and had been actively researching grants to establish one in Susanville for several years.

According to Latimer, “When I was hired by Stacey Montgomery in August of 2015, I shared my dream for a CAC in Lassen County and Stacey supported the endeavor whole-heartedly.” Late last year, Latimer’s hopes were fulfilled when a grant became available.

Latimer recalls, “Stacey allowed me to write the grant and submit it for application. Her vision and leadership allowed us to take a chance with the new program within the district attorney’s office, because she understood the need for CAC specific services of child victims in our community.”

Multiple disciplinary team coordinator for the center, Krystle Hollandsworth, reports at least 20 child interviews have been conducted since September.

She adds, “The interview is just one part of a complete investigation and during the interview our team members all have a common goal. Each team member brings their experience and knowledge to the table to ensure the victim and their family have the best outcome possible. As Mother Theresa said, ‘I can do things you cannot. You can do things I cannot. Together we can do great things.’”

And, great things are being done to eradicate child abuse and penalize evil perpetrators at both a local and statewide level.

For example, U.S.C. Professor of law and psychology, Thomas D. Lyon has spent the past two decades developing and refining methods to interview child witnesses.

Statistics indicate that even when faced with evidence pointing to physical or sexual abuse, 40 percent of children fail to disclose abuse when questioned by authorities.

“In sexual and physical abuse cases, an essential piece of evidence is the child’s report,” notes Lyon, “But many children either fail to disclose abuse or are unable to provide convincing testimony.”

By researching and developing interview techniques to provide accurate and detailed testimony from children many more abusers and pedophiles will be removed from circulation as we work toward eliminating these crimes against children.

The molestation and devastation of our children is an ugly truth that must be acknowledged and eliminated.

To borrow from the motto of Operation Underground Railroad, a rescue organization devoted to abolishing human trafficking, “Be afraid, (abusers) we are coming for you.”

Help is available. It is here and the time is now. If you have been abused or are aware of someone who is report the crime today.

 

To report abuse contact:

Sheriff’s Dispatch

257-6121

Susanville Police Department

257-5603

Lassen Family Services

251-8277

lassenfamilyservices.org

For more information and resources contact:

Lassen County

Victim Witness

lassencounty.org/dept/victimwitness-assistance

Mikailia Child Advocacy Center

Lassencounty.org/dept/

districtattorney/resources/mikailia

Child Welfare

Information Gateway

childwelfare.gov

National Children’s Alliance

nationalchildrensalliance.org

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