What is a Children's Advocacy Center all about?

When there are allegations of child sexual abuse or severe physical abuse, there are many reasons why law enforcement and DCFS caseworkers use a CAC. Some of the most important reasons are:

A place for children...

A place for children...

1. The forensic interview, education sessions, child counseling, as well as adult/non-offending parent counseling can all be done at the same facility.

2. Staff members trained to work specifically with victims of sexual abuse and assault

3. Child-friendly environment that is suitable for children of all ages. There are also studies that show when a child is seen at a CAC, caregivers are more satisfied with the experience and outcome of their case.

There is evidence that a CAC successfully improves the experience of the non-offending caregiver's experience during a sexual assault investigation, due to more support from investigators and a greater sense of safety and comfort during interviews (L.M. Jones et al. / Child Abuse & Neglect 31 (2007) 1069–1085).

At Hearts of Hope: Children's Advocacy Center, we work hard to ensure that each case is investigated to its full potential without re-traumatizing the client. We want to make sure that the child is safe, but also be sure that their mental and emotional health is taken care of, as well. We understand that going through the investigative process is hard, and we use every resource we have to help families get back to their normal lives. 

How Predators Prey

Statistics show that over 90% of sexual predators are people who parents know and trust. They can be relatives, neighbors, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, church officials, older teenagers who babysit...the list goes on and on! Therefore, it's important to understand how most predators operate. After viewing decades of previous cases, one thing is certain- the processes predators use to develop trust that lead to sexual abuse are always similar. It's called "grooming". 

  1. Predators look for childrens who feel ignored or unaccepted by parents or peers because the need for attention allows them to manipulate their victim.
  2. Predators slowly "groom" with attention, special favors or gifts that must be kept in secret. If the child keeps the secret(s), they pass the test that leads to sexual abuse. If the child discloses any secrets, the predator looks for another victim because secrets are essential to the grooming process.
  3. Predators may then gradually introduce pornography or sexual games to test the victim’s resistance. Larger gifts/bribes may be offered to encourage sexual activity.
  4. Predators will use fear, intimidation & risk of embarrassment as manipulation weapons to maintain secrecy so that the sexual abuse can continue. This guarantees the victim won't tell

It's important for parents and community leaders to understand that victims usually fear retaliation and legal consequences as well as public humiliation.  Oftentimes, they feel no one will believe them, especially if the predator is a family member or well respected leader within the community. If the predator is the family's breadwinner, victims may fear for their safety and security. If you have any suspicions, gather more information by asking your child open ended questions. This will give insight into the situation that provoke suspicions. If your child discloses that they are being abused or if your child is being groomed for abuse, you must call 337-233-7273 immediately. This not only protects your child, but a report will protect other children that this person may be grooming or abusing.

Always trust your instincts. If someone is making you or your child feel uncomfortable, contact your local law enforcement agency. As a parent, you are your child’s most trusted adult. Never hesitate to intervene in a situation that could potentially lead to abuse. You have a right to protect your child and stop the abuse before it even starts.

I Have A Voice!

I have a right to be protected. I have a right to be free!

7 STEPS TO PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN IN OUR COMMUNITY

1. Learn the Facts

-It is likely that you know a child who has been or is being abused.
-It is also likely that you know an abuser. The greatest risk to children doesn’t come from strangers but from friends and family.
-70% of all reported sexual assaults that occur are children under the age of 17.
-Most child victims never report the abuse.

2. Minimize Opportunity

-Eliminate or reduce any 1 adult/1 child situations.
-Teach boundaries.
-Monitor internet use & keep the computer in the family room.

3. Talk About It

-Children often keep abuse a secret, but barriers can be broken down by talking openly about it.
-Understand why children are afraid to “tell.”
-Know how children communicate.
-Talk to other adults about child sexual abuse.

4. Stay Alert

-Watch for physical and emotional signs (listed above).
-Behavioral or emotional signals are more common than physical signs.
-Be aware that in some children there are no signs ever.

5. Make a Plan

-Don’t overreact.
-Support.
-Report incident.

6. Act on Suspicions

-Trust your instincts – very few reported incidents are false.
-Call the Children’s Advocacy Center in your area if you have questions or concerns about making a report.
-Call Law Enforcement or the Department of Child & Family Services to make a report of child abuse.

7. Get Involved

-Volunteer or financially support organizations that address child sexual abuse.
-Call or write your Congressman.
-Support legislation.

For more information on the "7 Steps to Protecting Our Children", visit: www.d2l.org

To schedule a staff training or continuing education session, please contact our education Director:

Val Senegal,MA  val.senegal@theheartsofhope.org

PREVENTING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE in YOUR HOME

A. Communicate with your children: 
Dinner time is talking time. Go over basic facts about sexuality. Don’t use words to suggest that sexuality is bad or dirty. Remember that children react to the way you react. Let them know that they can come to you and ask questions if they don’t understand something about their bodies. Have a basic conversation about puberty so that pre-teens can understand the changes that will occur in his or her body. It is good to keep as an ongoing dialogue about sexual abuse and body safety in your household. Ask questions every time they start a new chapter in life or go to new places where they are around new people.                                                                                                       
B. Teach your children about their body parts:
Use the correct body part names. Explain to your child(ren) that no one has the right to touch or even look at their private parts in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.  
                                                                                              C. Teach children the important steps to take if someone tries to touch their private areas:    
1.) Say No!     2.) Get Away!     3.) Tell an Adult!
Remind them that If an adult doesn't believe them the first time they tell them, they must keep telling until someone does believe them. CHILDREN MUST BE SEEN, HEARD & BELIEVED

Don't Believe the Myths about Sexual Abuse

MYTHS & FACTS

MYTH: Child sexual abuse is a cultural or socioeconomic problem.
FACT: Sexual abuse crosses all socio-economic, race and class barriers. It happens in large and small families, in cities and rural areas, and in homes, schools and churches.

MYTH: All child victims tell of their abuse.
FACT: Most sexually abused children do not disclose their abuse, even when directly asked by parents or other authority figures. Children may take time to process what has occurred and realize that they should tell, but even then, they may be too afraid that the news will hurt or trouble their family, or that they won’t be believed. Sometimes they are threatened in some way by the offender.

MYTH: Children who are sexually abused will grow up to abuse others.
FACT: Child sexual victimization does not automatically lead to sexually aggressive behaviors. If a child discloses an incident of abuse early and is believed and supported by family and friends, they have a much higher likelihood of coping with the trauma and moving forward into adulthood positively.

MYTH: Children are only sexually abused by men.
FACT: Although male offenders tend to be the majority of reported cases of abuse, reports show that female perpetrators and child-on-child incidents are on the rise. Female offenders have been reported in cases of abuse of both male and female children.

Hashtag #NowMattersL8R to be apart of the movement to end sexual abuse.

Contact Val Senegal @ Hearts of Hope for more information

Online Safety Tips: #NowMattersL8R

The Internet has drastically changed the way that people communicate, and as a tool used multiple times a day, it's important to take measures to stay safe online. 

1) Don’t post any personal information online, like your address, email or mobile number.

2)  Think carefully before posting pictures or videos of yourself. Once you’ve put  a picture of yourself online most people can see it and may be able to download it. Never take nude selfies and send them through text or social media. This is a form of sexting.

3) Keep your privacy settings as high as possible.

4) Never give out your passwords to anyone, not even your "bestie".

5) Don’t befriend people you don’t know or have not actually met.

6) Don’t meet up with people you've met online.

7) If you see something online that makes you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or worried, block or delete the person. Then, report it to your parents, law enforcement and/or school officials. Save all evidence.

Visit our #NowMattersL8R project page.

Use the hashtag #NowMattersL8R on your own social media. 

Want to know more? Click here for our KATC news segment.

 

Sex Trafficking in Acadiana

We know it is hard to believe, but sex trafficking is happening in Acadiana.  Sex trafficking questions are not easy ones to answer, as we've learned through our Department of Justice. Unfortunately, many adults who are actually being trafficked do not identify themselves as victims. Like many survivors of sexual assault and abuse, they have formed a relationship with their abusers.

Perhaps the perpetrator is nice to her or buys her things she has never had before. Maybe he promises her a better life; maybe she has very few other options or has a drug habit that he supports. Many who want out of the situation have no idea where to go or that there are resources to help them. It is so important to bring awareness to the issue of sex trafficking, to make stricter penalties for those who traffic, to publicize hotline numbers and to provide funding to centers (such as Hearts of Hope) to support programs that help put survivors of sex trafficking on a path to help and healing.  

Here's a recent sex trafficking cases in Acadiana:

August 2014: 8 massage parlors in Lafayette were shut down because of human trafficking and prostitution.

March 2014: Nine people were arrested in Lafayette Parish by Louisiana State Police Special Victims Unit for charges ranging from computer aided solicitation of a minor to prostitution. These arrests stemmed from an undercover operation which focused on human sex trafficking and the online solicitation of juveniles. Detectives were assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations and Lafayette Metro Narcotics. During the operation, detectives worked in various undercover capacities through online networking websites. They were able to identify nine people who requested to meet adults and/or children for various sexual purposes. In all of the cases the suspects offered money for sex.

February 2014: Lafayette resident Darneesha Lashay Martin, 22, and Alcoby Con LaSalle, 19, were targeted and subsequently arrested by State Police for allegedly enticing young girls into prostitution. They used classified ad sites on the Internet to set up appointments for the 16-year-old runaways they trafficked, and were suspected of using clothes and manicures to lure these young girls into a life of prostitution. The arrests of Martin and LaSalle came as part of a State Police investigation called Operation Carpe Diem, a two-month operation that brought in many arrests across Louisiana for alleged crimes including illegal narcotics trafficking, weapons violations, theft, fugitive warrants, human trafficking, juvenile pornography and sex offender violations.

Websites are often utilized by sex traffickers. One of the active websites is backpage.com

http://lafayette.backpage.com/WomenSeekMen/

http://lafayette.backpage.com/MenSeekMen/

http://lafayette.backpage.com/WomenSeekWomen/

http://lafayette.backpage.com/FemaleEscorts/

Keep your eyes and ears open; if something seems suspicious and you think someone is being trafficked, call the police.