According to the Centers for Disease Control, as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.
With a combination of effective counseling and support from parents or caregivers, children can and do recover from these experiences.
For today’s edition of WKAR Connects, we look at Small Talk, a local organization that’s been working to provide child victims of sexual and domestic abuse the resources they need to heal since 2011.
Executive Director Alex Brace explains the services Small Talk offers.
“Small Talk is a children's advocacy center. We provide counseling services, forensic interviews, and a prevention program, a canine advocacy program and that's all with the goal of helping children heal from the trauma of sexual and physical abuse.”
Small Talk’s services are for children ages 3-18, and are provided at no cost to the families they serve. When abuse is reported, law enforcement refers children to Small Talk.
“We have agreements with all the law enforcement agencies in the county, the prosecutor's office, child protective services, medical professionals at Sparrow, and our staff so we use a multi-disciplinary team approach to help these kids through the investigative process and beyond, and help them heal,” says Brace.
Brace says they arrange for the child to be interviewed by one person, one time. CPS, the prosecutor’s office, other professionals are invited to observe the interview or have access to the recording as needed.
“Before places like ours existed, children wouldn't get interviewed in a child friendly environment it might be at a police station or some other place. And with the sensitivity of the subject matter we're dealing with, it's really important to have a child friendly environment for a child to come to and feel comfortable in. So that's what we try to provide. And we do this interview one time we invite all these professionals to this interview at the same time and that's to avoid re-traumatizing the child by asking them the same questions over and over again. Because before places like ours existed children would get interviewed maybe four or five times before they even get to the court process.”
Brace shares about one special girl who they were able to watch grow through the counseling process at Small Talk.
“I think one of the most memorable cases I can think of is there's a quote on our website that says, ‘I'm brave, I'm strong, I can do anything.’ And it was a child who had been through the process with us who had been here for a forensic interview who pushed through and was able to heal from the trauma she had experienced. And it always kinda sat with me because when we talked about, you know, what's a mantra, what's something that you can use to kinda help you through this really difficult time. And for her to bring that up, that's sort of been our goal as an organization is we want every child to leave these doors when they're finished with their counseling and their treatment, to be able to say, ‘I'm brave, I'm strong, I can do anything,’ despite the trauma they've experienced.
The thought of all the other children out there who are suffering and who need Small Talk’s help keeps Brace going.
“I think sexual abuse is a crime of secrecy, and I think the way that thing shave been going lately, it's something that we need to pay more attention to, clearly. We need to make sure people are heard and that they're believed. I think that's the thing that keeps me motivated and keeps me going is knowing that there are kids out there who are experiencing this as we speak. And I want every child to have the opportunity to heal just like the hundreds of kids who have been through here have been able to heal and grow and we've been able to see the success and the hope that we've been able to facilitate here and I want to make sure to provide that to every child in our county.”
That was Alex Brace, executive director of Small Talk Children’s Assessment Center. For more information about them, visit Small Talk's website here.