WATERVILLE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- In the year and a half the Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) of Kennebec and Somerset Counties has been in operation, they have helped more than 300 victims of sexual abuse and their families seek justice, as well as services and support.
Now the center has become the first nationally accredited CAC in Maine.
"Maine, prior to now, was the only state in the nation that didn't have an accredited Child Advocacy Center," stated Donna Strickler, Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center. "Today certainly marks a new day in the beginning of enhancing these services for children and families."
The CAC gives law enforcement, staff from the District Attorney's Office, mental health and social workers and Child Protective Services a place where they can work together to interview a victim, gather information and collaborate on their investigation into the child's allegations while only needing to conduct one interview.
"The mission of our Children's Advocacy Center is to provide a safe, neutral, and child centered place for this coordinated evaluation of children following an allegation of sexual abuse," she explained.
A victim is brought into the center and interviewed by an expert in the field while representatives from a variety of agencies watch on a closed circuit monitor in an adjacent room. This process helps reduce the additional trauma that can be inflicted by having a child recount their abuse numerous times and allows these groups to work together to provide the support the child needs.
"This program has streamlined and strengthened the relationships between law enforcement, child protective services, mental health and sexual assault crisis services and the District Attorney's Office around the investigation and prosecution of child sexual abuse cases," said Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey of the Waterville Police Department.
Advocates for victims of sexual assaults say more centers like this one are needed and are optimistic that the groundwork has been laid to create them.
The Children's Advocacy Center of Kennebec and Somerset Counties is in the midst of raising money to support its mission, and has been the beneficiary of a matching grant that will match dollar for dollar up to the first $10,000 the center is able to raise.