Child abuse is a serious problem in Franklin County. We see hundreds of cases reported every year. Probably everyone would agree that even one case is too many, much less the large numbers local authorities investigate every year.
But, as a community, we should also be concerned about the child abuse cases that aren’t reported. Sometimes a crime like that goes unreported out of fear, or concern for the victim’s welfare. Sometimes it isn’t reported simply because the child doesn’t feel comfortable telling anyone else about it.
Bringing a child abuser to justice is something that has been important to Franklin County’s judicial system for many years. Judging from the number of cases we see on our court calendars almost daily, they are doing a good job.
But that’s just one part of the bigger story, however.
From police officers investigating the cases to judges handing down punishment for the abusers, those in the criminal justice system have seen how their work often added trauma to already traumatized children.
They worried about the children, even as they did the work they had to do.
Most felt there had to be a better way. An approach that not only protected children but verified the abuse and helped the victims to heal. They knew that protecting children from even more trauma while bringing their abusers to justice was a worthwhile goal.
Those concerns helped birth the Over the Rainbow Children’s Advocacy Center, headquartered in Chambersburg, in 2014.
Over the Rainbow Meets the Need of Child Victims and Their Families
The center was the result of collaboration with community partners and professionals who shared a vision. They wanted a place specifically designed to address the needs of child abuse victims and their families.
The non-profit provides a safe haven for abused children as their cases work their way through the judicial system. Those vulnerable young survivors are protected, treated gently and reassured.
The center provides a central location for joint investigations and information sharing between law enforcement agencies and Children and Youth Services.
A child can now be interviewed just once by an expert trained to do that job. It is much better than the old system where victims endured multiple interviews by different individuals.
That alone eases a big burden on the young victim, reducing the trauma of retelling their story to strangers.
The local Over the Rainbow Center is a child-friendly environment. Here the atmosphere is much more relaxed. The center provides services and programs geared toward children and families who have experienced sexual abuse.
“While it may be impossible to stop abuse before it happens, we want the community to know that we are here with a multidisciplinary approach that can prevent it from ever happening again,” the Center’s Board President Matt Fogal said.
The media often follows individual stories about sexually assaulted or abused children relentlessly. Even when we are careful to not use a child’s name, we use stories. Perhaps this is necessary to alert others to the crime and prevent it from happening again. Perhaps not.
Even when we think we are protecting a child’s identity, the child knows who we are talking about, especially if they are old enough to read the story or pick up on the whispers.
Changing the Dynamics
So it is important for the community to know how the Over the Rainbow Children’s Advocacy Center is serving survivors of these crimes.
These services include forensic interviews, medical exams, behavioral health therapy, victim advocacy and non-offending caregiver programs. The Center also promotes programs to educate and teach adults the skills necessary to prevent, recognize and respond to child abuse.
The Center provides a central location for joint investigations and information sharing between law enforcement agencies and Children and Youth Services.
Now the child can be interviewed one time, by experts who are trained to not only investigate the crime but help the victim. Less traumatic. Sure beats multiple interviews by multiple professionals. That alone reduces the trauma for the child victim.
For decades, this was an intimidating process for victims and their families. Their first contact was usually with police officers. Then other experts and agencies. Then they often faced medical examinations at a hospital.
But at Over the Rainbow, those dynamics changed.
“We are hoping that the Over the Rainbow Children’s Advocacy Center continues to change the way people think about and respond to child sexual assault,” Fogal said.
About Over the Rainbow Advocacy Center
The nonprofit Over The Rainbow Advocacy Center is funded by grants, donations and fundraising efforts. The center relies on the generosity of the community to provide all child victims with necessary services and assistance to lessen the trauma of childhood abuse.
There are many ways an individual person can make a difference in the life of a child. Speaking up on their behalf is the key to intervention and the prevention of child abuse.
Supporting Franklin County Children’s Advocacy Center provides the child with a voice and ensures the support and services necessary to lessen the trauma associated with abuse.
To learn more about Over the Rainbow Children’s Advocacy Center, visit https://overtherainbowcac.org/.