Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 16, 2007

CHILD ABUSE VICTIMS: Providing protection and prevention

From the instant they walk through the door, children are greeted with images of calm and safety.

Arriving from the chaos created by abuse and mistreatment, they find themselves in an oasis that caters to them.

Soothing pastel colors cover the walls in the brightly lit and cheerfully decorated play and interview rooms. Toys and games and books abound to give kids a chance to relax and become comfortable, before facing the serious work that’s about to begin.

This is the new way that victims of child abuse are treated in the Niagara Region. Once immediate physical needs are attended to, children head to the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara.

“We bring everyone together to make sure all the necessary services are provided,” said the center’s Executive Director Ann Marie Tucker. “We look to eliminate duplication and reduce the trauma of child victims.”

Opened in Niagara Falls in 1995, and funded by Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, more than 2,200 abused children have passed through its doorway. Reminders of the young victims of abuse are everywhere.

Pictures, drawn by the child victims, cover the walls of the center’s playroom. SpongeBob and ponies, hearts and flowers, are popular themes.

Many of the children draw their own faces and virtually all the pictures are signed by their creators. It’s an environment that welcomes young victims.

“We’re trying to get them out of the traditional places, like police stations, and bring them into a place that is child friendly and neutral,” Tucker said. “This is their space.”

Bringing everyone together

There are 500 child advocacy centers across the United States. The one in the Falls was the third to open in New York.

Twelve years later, there are now 30 across the state and more being planned.

The central idea with a CAC is to provide a comprehensive response to the needs of child victims and their families. That’s accomplished by bringing together all the professionals and agencies involved in investigating, treating and prosecuting child abuse cases under one roof.

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