I want to talk about an organization that is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with The Children’s Justice Center for about 2.5 years now and I truly feel so thankful that I found such an amazing cause to be a part of. To explain what it is a bit more…throughout the state of UT there are home like centers that cater to children who have experienced abuse. Once a case is opened with the police the child is brought to the center to be interviewed and given any medical exams necessary. Before the centers were opened the children would be taken to the police stations and potentially interviewed in the same room as burglars, rapists or any other criminal interviews going on at that time. After they were interviewed at the police station they were taken to the hospital for their exams and interviewed a second time. It wasn’t unusual for a child to have to disclose the abuse, and relive the trauma, at least half a dozen times. Now that the centers are available they’re interviewed once. It’s by a specially trained forensic interviewer who has been trained how to get children to open up to them and disclose the abuse as accurately as possible without leading them with their questions. The entire interview is also recorded for future reference and can possibly be used during trials instead of having to testify.
Once their case is closed, whether it’s determined there isn’t enough evidence or it’s gone to trial, the center is also able to help point the children and often their families towards the right resources for counseling and how to move forward. All at no cost to the child/family. While the government pays for the staff salary and a few various other things the majority of running the center including the rent of the building itself, landscaping, snow removal, utilities, security systems, etc are all reliant on donations. Donations from local businesses, individuals or raised through fundraisers. If the carpet or water heater needs replacing it’s up to the center’s board to raise those funds. It’s not just financial donations that help though. They regularly see children in between meal times, the interviews can go quite long, and occasionally they get a child or more that haven’t eaten in a while and for those reasons gift cards to local restaurants are so helpful! Especially ones that are open late or 24 hrs because there are times a child is brought in very late at night. Another thing that helps is individually packaged snack items or drinks. It’s such a nice thing to these children and the families that come in with them to have comfort food available to them. Lap blankets and stuffed animals are also quickly gone through. Each child that comes through is able to pick a blanket to use during their medical exam as well as a stuffed animal as a comfort object while they disclose this trauma. If you’d like to donate any of those items PLEASE contact your local Justice Center! They rely so heavily on their communities generosity and while child abuse is an incredibly ugly topic it needs to be discussed. We all have a responsibility to do more in helping our children have the opportunity to heal. Even if all they are able to do is tell their story and find some counseling that is a huge step towards healing. It’s also SO SO important for the shame to be removed, anyone who is abused is NOT at fault. It doesn’t define them, it’s something that happened to them but they can go on and have a beautiful and full life. The best way for child abuse to stop is for us to take away the perpetrator’s weapons and that is secrecy and silence. Talk to your kids. Definitely talk to them about body boundaries and safety measures but also talk to them about the importance of telling you or a trusted adult if they’re ever made to feel uncomfortable by another person. Talk to them and let them know they didn’t do anything wrong and they won’t be in trouble. Most importantly, talk to you kids and tell them you’ll always believe them. Ok…this has been much heavier than I originally anticipated but it’s such a passion of mine that I want everyone to feel as called to it as I do. Anyways, onto the post!
I recently had the opportunity to attend a Blogger’s Night out for Northern UT bloggers. The women arranging it were looking for a charity that we could do some kind of service project for while at the event. So, loving the center like I do, I immediately suggested putting together small comfort snack bags for the children my local center sees and thankfully, everyone really liked the idea. We all met in Sandy at the Atrium Center. It was so beautiful!