Law Enforcement & Child Advocates Try To Make Reporting Child Sexual Abuse Easier On Victims 

Law enforcement is joining forces with child advocates and others to help children who are victims of sexual abuse get justice and the help they need to cope.For a child who’s been the victim of sexual abuse, coming forward to report the crime can be tough.The crime was traumatic enough, but rehashing the same traumatic story multiple times, before putting kids through the rigors of a trial, can be too much for some victims. “It’s really traumatic for these kids to say it once. So having to say it two, three, four or multiple times, that’s a lot of pressure on a kid,” said Therese Cahill-Low from the Department of Health and Human Services Child Protective Services.But all of that is changing in central Maine. Monday in Augusta, law enforcement agencies from all over Somerset and Kennebec counties gathered to sign an interagency agreement with the children’s advocacy center. Now when a child reports being a victim of sexual abuse, they’ll be referred to the advocacy center. “With that referral the child comes in with a non-offending care giver in order to be interviewed and the team is in another room, a separate room, while the child is being interviewed in another room. So the team is all getting the information all at the same time,” said Donna Strickler, Executive Director of the Sexual Assault and Crisis Support Center The victim only has to be interviewed and relive the experience one time. That interview is recorded and will follow the child’s case throughout the legal process, including being played at trial. “This is a great step, it’s a great program, and I think it’s going to benefit all of us, in particularly the children,” Waterville Police Chief Joe Massey said. The interview is just one part of this collaboration. “When a family is done with this interview it doesn’t end there. We provide services ongoing,” Strickler said.All of those who signed the agreement Monday are hoping, by making things easier on the kids who come forward, it may motivate more to report abuse instead of suffering in silence. “That is our goal, to lessen the trauma of children,” Strickler said. “In the sense that we can’t make the trauma go away. This is a traumatic experience for children. But it lessens the trauma by not having multiple interviews by multiple agencies.”