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Help the healing by supporting the Children’s Advocacy Center


Three years ago, shortly after I was invited to join the board, we held our annual fundraiser at the Children’s Advocacy Center. It was a wonderful event held in our new building and provided an opportunity to show off our new location and what we do with a very unique twist. As guests entered the event through the front door, they were given a small slip of paper. My slip of paper said “female, 9 years old, sexual abuse.”

I was about to enter the facility and be shown the path a nine-year-old victim takes to healing. 

The first stop is where the Forensic Interview team does their work — a cautious, non-leading discussion about the sexual abuse. This process is documented and watched by law enforcement to help build a legal case against the perpetrator and so the victim doesn’t have to retell the story over and over.

The next stop is one of several counselors, solely for the victim. I was taken into the sand tray room. The sand tray room is a small room with shelves lining the walls. On the shelves, there are hundreds of miniature figurines and a couple of overstuffed, comfortable chairs. This is where victims “build” a sand tray about their abuse experience or their recovery or their feelings on a particular day.

There is a coffee table in the middle of the room. The day I was there, on the table was a sand tray that had been re-created by the counselor who explained that it was originally built by a young girl who came through the program two years before. On the sand tray was a bed and on the bed was a figurine of a little girl. On top of the little girl was an adult male figure and at the foot of the bed was a movie camera on a tripod. There were a number of people who went through the sand tray room that evening — most everyone left the room crying.

We were shown the other counseling rooms, the play therapy room, family and group counseling. There is an outdoor space, a walled garden where kids and families can be outside. And there is an outdoor area for children and therapists to use during counseling sessions.  

The tour was very enlightening and for me, and highlighted what the process looked like. But I was left with a burning question. So, I went to Dedra Vick who was, at the time, our board president. Dedra works for the Parker County Sheriff’s office so I thought she would be the best place to take my question: What happens to the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against children? Dedra smiled and said, “come with me, I want you to meet someone.” She took me back and introduced me to one of the Parker County Investigators assigned to the Children’s Advocacy Center. This man’s job was to investigate crimes against children.

We were introduced and I sat down in his office. My first question was: what goes on when you arrest someone who has sexually abused a child? Are they remorseful, do they regret what they’ve done? He explained they are mostly embarrassed, embarrassed that they’ve been caught. I said, “you must feel some level of satisfaction in taking them off the street, putting them somewhere where that can’t hurt more kids.” He said, “yes, I do, but I have to be very careful in what I let show. If I allow my disgust or anger to show, they will shut down. I need them to talk with me to do my job, so I must remain professional and not allow my personal feelings to impact my emotions.”

At this point, I began to think of myself in his role and how challenging it would be to hold my emotions in check. Then I began to consider what the knowledge would do to me, the details of the abuse, the perversion against children, the pain and fear they experience, usually at the hand of someone they should be able to trust. So, I asked him, “how do you sleep at night?”

He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I sleep fine because I know we’re fixing these kids and families here.” He went on to say, “historically we would arrest the perpetrator, they would face trial, be found guilty and be sent away for a long time to suffer the punishment for their crime. The victim and what’s left of the family never got addressed, never got help. What we know is that victims, can, at worst become abusers or, as adults, allow abuse in the home.” As he explained it, we are truly doing something to break the cycle of abuse. It was at this moment that I realized exactly what we were doing at the CAC, what giving a voice to children actually looks like.

Please, know this: every dollar you give goes to help break the cycle of child abuse. If you are asked what the Children’s Advocacy Center does, you can answer the question simply: they’re healing children. Thank you very much for your generosity.

Rob Helms is a local resident who serves on the board of the Children’s Advocacy Center.


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