We’ve come a long way over the past 30 years. Most households no longer have landline phones. Computers have connected us, making the world much smaller. Television has hundreds of channels and a majority of people download their music instead of going to a record store. Yet while these advances may make most of our lives easier and better, none of them have the potential to stop harming innocent children. In fact, many of these very same technological leaps make it easier than ever to abuse children. While the goal will always be to eliminate child abuse, until that day happens, Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) will continue to lead the charge in holding offenders accountable, keeping kids safe from abusers, and, most importantly, helping heal kids after abuse.
The primary mission of a CAC is to prevent further victimization by ensuring that child abuse investigations are comprehensive, and that intervention and healing services meet the age appropriate needs of the child. Communities with CACs and multidisciplinary teams have far higher conviction rates for child sexual abuse than non-CAC communities. And, in addition, research demonstrates that children served by CACs are 4 times more likely to receive medical care, and far more likely to receive mental health referrals.
CACs can be found in every type of community from urban, suburban, rural, and even tribal communities. CACs provide services to children from birth to age 18, with nearly 40% of the children served being younger than 6 years old. As important as intervention is to alleviating the suffering of these children, efforts to prevent child sexual abuse in the first place are equally important. Last year, CACs provided child sexual abuse prevention training to more than 1.9 million individuals, many in a school setting.
For these reasons and many more, it is no shock that Congress supports this effective evidence-based model, first by passing the Victims of Child Abuse Act in 1990 and then continuing to reauthorize the program over the subsequent years. The critical and much-needed funds provided through the Victims of Child Abuse Act benefit local CACs and their state Chapters around the country through training, program development, program support, and setting standards for practice. Since 1992, federal funding has helped establish and maintain more than 900 CACs and their state Chapters throughout the United States, and the number of children helped by CACs has more than tripled in recent years, growing from 100,539 in 2000 to almost 335,000 in 2017.
We now call on Congress to once again affirm its commitment to help abused children by passing the recently introduced Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2018 and urge you to contact your US Senators and US Representatives, asking them to lend their voice of support for this much-needed piece of legislation. Child abuse is a far too common experience for America’s children. With your help and the support of our representatives in Washington, CACs stand ready to make their futures whole and bright. N