Children's Advocacy Center serves child sexual abuse victims

March 15, 2004|HERB BROCK

Editor's note: This story is the first in a three-part series on the Child Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass, which has served child sexual abuse victims in Boyle, Garrard and Mercer counties for 10 years. Tuesday's story profiles victims and perpetrators and shows how the center intervenes in and investigates child sexual abuse reports.

LEXINGTON - It seems that allegations of child sexual abuse suddenly have become rampant.

On the national level, Michael Jackson has been indicted in a child molestation case; and, hundreds of Catholic priests have been charged and many convicted for sexually abusing children.

On the state level, Terry and Jane Atkins of Nicholasville have been convicted on scores of federal child pornography charges.

On the local level, Steve Hoeck, former president of the Boyle/Mercer County Task Force on Child Abuse, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual and criminal abuse involving children; and a Lincoln County man, Marvin Phillips, was held on a $1 million bond after his arrest for allegedly raping and sodomizing a child under 12 in a "deviant sexual relationship" that began in 1999.


The stories are stunning. A rock star who says he loves children allegedly has molested at least one child. Men who are supposed to be shepherds are accused of molesting the youngest of their flocks. A married couple who, on the surface, seemed like good neighbors turned their home into a "kiddie porn" distribution center. A man who heads an organization aimed at combating child abuse is accused of committing it. Another man was allegedly engaged in sex with a child who hadn't even reached puberty.

But the front pages of newspapers aren't the only places where child sexual abuse cases are written up. The files of the Children's Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass are full of such cases, many of them as shocking as their more newsworthy counterparts. And while more and more cases seem to be making the papers and involve prominent people, to the center staff, it's old news involving people from all levels of society.

The ongoing Michael Jackson legal saga has shone the national spotlight on one of the most infamous of offenses, but CAC executive director Kelly Roberts knows that alleged child sexual abuse can involve people less famous than Jackson and can occur in places less grand than Neverland.

Roberts knows sexual abuse of children can involve a father fondling a daughter in an apartment in Danville.

She knows sexual abuse of children can involve the close friend of a family videotaping a young female member of that family in the nude during a "special" birthday party he's throwing for her in his three-bedroom ranch in Lancaster.

She knows child sexual abuse can involve a church youth leader attempting to have sex with a teenage boy at a campout near his church in Harrodsburg.

"The Michael Jackson case has made child molestation famous, or perhaps I should say infamous," said Roberts, whose private, nonprofit child sexual abuse crisis intervention agency serves Boyle, Garrard, Mercer and 14 other central Kentucky counties.

"But you don't have to go to Hollywood, whether it's a palatial mansion of a star or the set of a movie on child sexual abuse, to realize that this kind of abuse is a serious problem deserving serious attention everywhere in the country, including our region," she said.

Center in 10th year of paying "serious attention" to child sexual abuse

The center is in its 10th year of paying "serious attention" to child sexual abuse by following its mission of "improving community response to child sexual abuse by providing a safe, non-threatening place for children up to the age of 18 and a non-offending parent during the intervention process," said Roberts, a Somerset native with a master's degree in social work who has headed the center since 2000.

Every year the center serves about 500 children in its 17-county service area. The number of cases has been growing steadily over the last decade, a fact Roberts attributes more to better public knowledge of child sexual abuse and how to report it and a greater willingness to report it than to an actual increase in child sexual abuse.

Over the last three years the center has handled 33 cases from Mercer County, 28 cases from Boyle County and 27 cases from Garrard County. Most of the cases are referred to the center from law enforcement personnel and social workers. Police and social workers in the 17-county area served by the center are required by law to refer alleged child sexual abuse victims to the center.

The center operates on an annual budget of $400,000, which includes federal Victims of Crime Act money, state funds and local donations. The center receives no money from clients; they receive center services free of charge.

The center has a staff of five full-time employees and five people who work there under contracts, with most of them being medical personnel, including Dr. Katie Bright of Danville, who is an associate professor at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine's Prediatrics Teaching Clinic.

In addition, the center either offers or makes referrals to various programs aimed at helping victims and their families and educating and training professionals involved with children and victims and their families and the general public about child sexual abuse.

Get more information

For information about the Children's Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass, write the CAC at 183 Walton Ave., Lexington, Ky., 40508, call 859-225-KIDS (5437) or find its Web site at

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