Thousands of children suffer some type of abuse or neglect every day.
In 2018 alone, there were over 43-hundred reports of child abuse just in North Dakota.
What many of us don’t know is what happens when that report is made.
Does the child have to talk to authorities?
What if they fear that nobody will believe them?
In this segment of Raising North Dakota, Alysia Huck tells us about an organization that is crucial in helping every child and family through any traumatic situation.
When it comes to helping a child through trauma such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect or witnessing violence, the approach is crucial.
“The 60s through the 80s it was really going through a process of multiple interviewers, as well as people untrained in talking to children so they were being treated as they were adults or possibly even as criminals,” explains Kori Weigel, DCAC Forensic Interview Program Coordinator.
But fast-foward to today, and that approach has changed drastically.
“We do have families that come in here and say, ‘I imagined my kid being in an interrogation,’ and it’s not like that at all,” says Weigel. “It’s a very child-friendly environment where kids can express themselves in their own way.”
The Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center, or DCAC came into existence in 1997 with a goal of creating a coordinated response to child sexual abuse investigations.
Kori Weigel is a Forensic Interview Program Coordinator and she says the organization serves as a meeting point and brings everybody together in order to help the child and their family.
“That’s actually the purpose of DCAC,” says Weigel. “We really can build a relationship with that child and build that repoire with them to make them feel safe in the environment.”
A forensic interviewer like Weigel interviews the child and gathers the information.
From there, the child has the opportunity to work with a therapist in order to work through the healing process and learn how to cope.
Therapist Abbigail Stroh says her favorite part of working with the kids is seeing the confidence they gain through the process.
Abbigail Stroh, clinical coordinator and therapist, says, “I tell people I think all of the work that we do here, the forensic interview, the therapy, all the advocacy, all of the stuff is great but I think my favorite part is seeing these kids who come in with their trauma, who’ve have talked about like ‘I don’t think anything’s going to get better,’ ‘I don’t feel like anything’s going to change,’ ‘This is going to be with me my whole life,’ who’ve learned and gained skills that they need to work through the trauma and process through it and kind of grow in themselves.”
And Detective Mike Wood explains that the entire team has the same goal.
“We want the child to feel as comfortable as possible,” explains Mike Wood, detective, Mandan Police Department. “We don’t want them to be traumatized any more than they might have already been. This is about the safety and security of the child”
“I’ve worked with a lot of kids who’ve come through here who have gone through some pretty significant traumas and through the process of therapy they’re able to talk about their trauma and work through it,” says Stroh. “They learn to cope better and as they leave here I’ve had a lot of kids tell me ‘this has probably been the most helpful thing that they’ve done.”
Reporting in Bismarck for KX News, I’m Alysia Huck.
DCAC is one of three children’s advocacy centers in the state, and they all work together in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of kids from all corners of the state.
Click here to learn more about an upcoming fundraiser for DCAC, and how you can help children who have been traumatized.