Mission is to reduce the trauma for the abused child
One of the most devastating things for a child to experience is abuse. Statistics show that one in four girls will be sexually abused before her 18th birthday. One in six boys will be abused before his 18th birthday. Only one in ten will have the courage to talk about it. The Children's Advocacy Center is a place that can help. Housed in Henderson, the Rusk-Panola Children's Advocacy Center is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to reduce trauma for the abused child and make recovery easier. Children are able to come to the center and tell their story one time to a trained forensic interviewer. The atmosphere is child-friendly so that it's easy to talk about the incident. Sara Fields, Investigator with the Panola County Sheriff's Department, says, "I've been to several of these centers over the years, and this is by far the best. The child doesn't have to be drug from entity to entity--to hospital to courtroom telling the same story over and over. It keeps a child from being so traumatized, and they're always so friendly."
About 250 children are seen in the Advocacy Center per year. Forty percent of those make an outcry for help because of some type of physical or sexual abuse. Some come through the Center because of drug busts in the home--others may have witnessed a violent crime. Regardless of the reason, the children have a safe, friendly place to come tell their story. A family room is set up with snacks, movies, games and an art station. Local ladies, as part of the "Project Linus" program, knit blankets to give to each child.
Once at the center, a child advocate is appointed for the child, and this person goes through every step of the process with them. If sexual abuse is the case, the Center has a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) program in place. The child can be examined at the Center without having to go to a hospital. Family therapists are available, free of charge, for the entire family.
If the case is indicted, the advocate accompanies the child to court. To get prepared for court proceedings, a "court school" is set up at the Advocacy Center--a room that is identical to scale to the Panola and Rusk County courtrooms. The child is able to see exactly what the courtroom setting will be, where the judges and attorneys will sit, and will help them be more comfortable with the surroundings once the actual case goes to court.
The Child Advocacy Center depends on donations from people in the community to fund their programs. Just as with most other non-profit organizations, funding is scarce. Grants are no longer in abundance. The Rusk-Panola County Advocacy Center helps children in Panola County as well as Rusk County, and is also in need of volunteers. If you would like to support this worthy cause, contact the Center at 903.657.0790 or contact local CAC Board Member Dana Clark at City Hall, 903.693.3868. Visit the Child Advocacy website for more detailed information. Help break the cycle of abuse one child at a time!