Imagine being a child with a secret. A secret you feel is so dark and shameful that there's no way this could have happened to anyone else. It's dirty and embarrassing! What could possibly be worse? Telling your secret and having no one believe you.
To me this is the greatest gift a Child Advocacy Center can offer: Knowing that child sexual abuse is not typically a story that kids want to make up; the secret of child sexual abuse is too shameful and embarrassing for a child to pretend that it happened.
"C" was 12 years old when she reported to her aunt that her father was having sex with her. She told her story to the Department of Children and Families and law enforcement investigators and they believed her. She said there was no one protecting her at home, and they believed her. She met with the prosecutor from the State's Attorneys Office, who believed her story.
A couple of years went by while the case was in the court system. She saw a counselor who believed her and helped her understand that what happened was not her fault. She testified in front of a jury who believed her!
She now has an adoptive family that supports her. She is living in the community, a very successful high school student with plans to go to college in the fall. Because "C" was believed by people throughout the entire process (and because she is an amazing girl), her father will not be able to hurt her or any other child for the rest of his life.
Not all children experiencing sexual abuse have happy endings like this one, but I know that with a Child Advocacy Center in our community, every child has the opportunity. And talking about secrets is becoming a little bit easier.
Lori Yunger is the former case coordinator for the Bennington County Child Advocacy Center and continues to serve on the CAC's Multidisciplinary Team as a family advocate worker for the Sunrise Family Resource Center.