The Child Advocacy Center (CAC), located at the center of Athens County, has dealt with over 30 cases in the first six months of 2018, prompting further educational outreach.
The CAC provides services for child sexual abuse survivors and their families where kids can open up and feel safe while doing so.
“Here at the CAC, we coordinate a community response to child abuse, specifically sexual abuse,” said Melissa Greenlee, director of the CAC. “Our mission statement is ‘working together to promote health, safety, justice and healing for child survivors of abuse.’”
The CAC also works directly with the Athens Police Department, Athens Prosecuting Attorney, and Children Services to ensure that each child is defended and protected. Robin Webb, public relations and community events coordinator of Athens Children Services, said if the case needs further investigation, next it is passed onto the CAC. The organization then assists with interviews regarding the case.
“Typically, we first investigate the case,” Webb said.
The CAC limits the number of tests and interviews a child may go through to make the experience as least traumatic as possible, Webb said. This method is recognized by the National Children’s Alliance as being the most effective in helping children.
Not only does the CAC work with helping sexually abused children, but they also work to help spread awareness throughout the community.
“Athens County is very lucky to have a CAC,” Webb said. “Other counties do not have that type of program. If we didn’t, the child’s experience could be much more traumatic.”
The CAC is a valuable resource, said Detective Ryan Gillette of the Athens County Sheriff's Office. It brings local organizations together to aid victims through the entire process. Every organization that contributes to child abuse cases plays an important role in helping children.
“We at the Sheriff’s Office have an assigned Detective that works directly with the CAC specifically for these cases,” Gillette said.
In order for Athens to continue the CAC program, they must be funded through government grants and donations. In addition, the CAC holds fundraisers, and uses these events to raise awareness that children are victims too.
On Nov. 10, the CAC held a fundraiser to raise money and bring awareness to Athens. This fundraiser held fun festivities for kids and their families and a booth for sexual abuse education.
The organization wants to continue to educate children on what body boundaries are and shed light for parents on potential signs of assault.