Fredericksburg Parent

November 2017

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 9 of 27

10 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • November 2017 Elizabeth McNally: Executive Director of Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center WRITTEN BY BRANDY CENTOLANZA Not every child has a safe, stable home environment. Some are victims of or witnesses to crimes or abuse. Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center in Fredericksburg works with law enforcement and other community agencies to help children who may suffer from physical or sexual abuse. Staff members address the abuse without sacrificing a child's need for safety, dignity and privacy, help- ing to reduce the stress of the situation for the child. "Safe Harbor was developed to strengthen the coordinated community response to victims of child abuse or neglect by integrating the existing resources of law enforcement, child protection, pros- ecution, medical and therapeutic agencies so children are not further traumatized by the investiga- tive process, and perpetrators are held accountable for their actions," shared Elizabeth McNally, executive director of Safe Harbor. "The center serves as a place to conduct forensic interviews, which are structured conversations with child victims designed to elicit disclosures of what abuse they might have endured while not further traumatizing them." The center also offers other sup- port services including medical evaluations and trauma-focused therapy. "All of this is done with a child-focused environment, with rooms filled with toys, comfortable seat- ing, and other amenities, much like a home," McNally said. "It can be extremely difficult for children, when they've experienced abuse, to want to give their story. Having a comfortable, child-focused environment with specially trained professionals conducting the interviews of children and helping the family with their needs following abuse is critical in reducing trauma, instilling hope and ulti- mately achieving justice." Safe Harbor first began helping families in 2009. The center serves five jurisdictions: Fredericksburg, Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania, and Stafford. The trauma-focused therapy is offered free of charge on-site by a certified mental health care provider. In fiscal year 2017, Safe Harbor served 236 children and their families. Of those, 175 children were victims of sexual abuse; 37 were victims of severe physical abuse; 18 had witnessed violence; 16 had suffered physical neglect; and another eight were victims of other forms of abuse. profi le profi le "Safe Harbor is one of sixteen Child Advocacy Centers in Virginia," McNally noted. "Because the need is great, more Child Advocacy Centers are being opened in other parts of the commonwealth over the next twelve months." Parents can protect children from sexual and physical abuse by being actively involved in their child's life and encouraging their child to speak up if they suspect they are being abused. Know where your children are on a daily basis and talk with them often about boundaries when it comes to their bodies, reassuring your children that they won't be in trouble if they report abuse. Warning signs of potential physical abuse include unexplained injuries or bruising or injuries that don't match the explanation of the cause, while warning signs of sexual abuse include sexual behavior or knowledge that's inappropriate for the child's age or trouble walking or sitting or complaints of pain in the private area. Children who are abused often feel guilty, ashamed, or confused. They may withdraw from friendships or activities, become hostile, anxious or depressed. If you suspect a child is in immedi- ate danger, call 911 right away. Central Rappahannock Regional INSPIRING LIFELONG LEARNING / crrlnews GROW A READER SPECIAL: November 16 • Porter Branch, 7:00–7:30 November 19 • Headquarters Library, 1:30–2:00 November 22 • Salem Church Branch, 7:00–7:30 Stories, songs, and a holiday craft. All ages with a caregiver. All ages with . g g! Happy Thanks v i n i 46220 November 17 Salem Church Branch 10:00–10:30 and 11:00–11:30 November 18 Fredericksburg Branch 1:00–1:30 November 15 Porter Branch 7:00–7:30

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Fredericksburg Parent - November 2017