Child Advocacy Center helps children recount, cope with sexual abuse

March 16, 2004|HERB BROCK

Editor's note: This is the second story 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. Wednesday's story deals with child sexual abuse cases that go to court and what happens to victims afterward.

When drawing pictures of victims and perpetrators of child sexual abuse, you can paint by the numbers:

* Three out of four victims are female.

* Nine out of 10 perpetrators are male.

* Nine out of 10 victims have been abused by a member of the victim's family or someone well known to the victim and her family.

* One out of 10 victims tell stories of their abuse which can be litigated.

* Nine out of 10 cases that are litigated result in convictions.

These numbers add up to the profiles of the victims and perpetrators involved in cases handled by the Children's Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass and the process that ends in litigation after intervention and investigation.


Numbers don't lie, but in the case of child sexual abuse, these numbers don't paint the whole picture, said Kelly Roberts, executive director of the 10-year-old center, whose 17-county service area includes Boyle, Garrard and Mercer counties. In recent interviews, Roberts and center contract physician, Dr. Katie Bright, of Danville, added flesh to the bones of the profiles of victims and perpetrators and details about the process involved in dealing with each of the 500 cases handled at the center every year.

"It is probably fairly well understood by the general public that most victims of child sexual abuse are girls - it is more than 75 percent - and most of the perpetrators are men - and that percentage is more than 90," said Bright. "But there are exceptions to every rule, and we see those almost every day.

"In addition, it probably isn't as well known that the vast majority of perpetrators are not men in trench coats who hang out in dark alleys near schools or on playgrounds or drive along residential streets offering candy to little girls," said Roberts. "Sure, there are many cases of perpetrators being total strangers who prey on girls, but the vast majority of them - some 93 percent - are people that the victims know very well, love or like very much, and trust a lot, and these are members of the victims' families or close friends of the families."

The family members who are perpetrators include fathers, stepfathers, older brothers, uncles and grandfathers, said Roberts. But mothers and stepmothers, as well as other female family members, also have been involved in child sexual abuse cases, either as direct participants or as enabling spouses who ignore or deny the abuse. A common scenario involving participating women are stepmothers whose husbands are molesting their daughters, she said.

The perpetrators who are known well to the victims, said Roberts, include close family friends and those people who work closely with children or otherwise have easy access to them, such as teachers, coaches, church youth leaders and recreation leaders. Many of the cases in which boys are sexually abused involve non-family members who are close to the boys, their families or both, she said.

Report of alleged child abuse comes from several different sources

With the profile established in detail, Roberts, along with Bright, then talked about the process, starting with the report of the alleged child abuse, which more often than not comes from parents, social workers, teachers and law enforcement officers. It is a process that involves a "multi-disciplinary team" of professionals, Roberts said.

"The first thing that is done after receiving a child sexual abuse report is for us to conduct an interview, and it is a one-on-one dialogue between the child and a trained professional counselor, conducted in a controlled and safe environment," said Roberts. "Monitoring the interview on closed-circuit monitors are other professionals, including social workers and police officers, or these people and others involved in the investigation of the case can see the interview later because it is taped.

"We do monitored and taped interviews because, while the child only is in the room with one person, the interview is monitored live and then later on tape, and that means the child does not have to be subject to being re-interviewed and re-interviewed and forced to tell the same story several times," she said. "The child's interview will be available to police, social workers and the commonwealth's attorney, and so they won't have to conduct their own interviews."

Just as the single-interview process has replaced the multiple or serial interview format, how the interview itself is conducted has changed, said Roberts.

Central Kentucky News Articles