'Voices for 3,000' advocates victims to report abuse
Published: Monday, May 7, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
Advocates from various agencies around Chicago stood in the rain on April 30 at Daley Plaza amid 3,000 stuffed animals. The rows of children’s toys symbolized the unreported cases of child abuse on the last day of National Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“We are asking the adults to be the voice for those children, (and) if they see something to say something so those children can start the healing process,” said DePaul graduate Kathy Grzelak at the “Voices for 3,000” event.
Grzelak graduated from DePaul with a master’s in counseling and now serves as the Chief Program Officer at the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center. (CCAC)
“The child does not have to tell their story multiple times in multiple places,” says Grzelak referring to the efforts of multiple partner organizations working together at the CCAC, an agency founded by former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1998.
The center’s facility, located at 1240 S. Damen, opened in 2001 and partnered with several agencies that are on-site including the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Cook County Health & Hospitals System, and the Chicago Police Department.
Grzelak asks parents and mentors to advocate for children who have experienced sexual abuse and describes there to be “shame and guilt particularly with male victims,” which she says constitute much of the cases that are not reported. Grzelak also referred to research on “the mind and body connection,” illustrated in the 2010 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.
ACE data concludes significant trauma can have “long term health effects as well as psychological effects,” she says.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ACE Study has found strong correlations between trauma and physical health problems including heart disease, liver disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The study also confirmed the presence of psychological effects including depression, substance abuse, and suicidal tendencies.
LaShanda Nalls, Director of Counseling Services at Rape Victim Advocates, says the first step in helping children coping with sexual abuse is to report it to the police or agencies that can offer support. “We do have a hotline being that we are not open after hours,” she says which is accessible 24 hours as day at 888-293-2080 to anyone who has experienced sexual violence.
CCAC says collaboration from various agencies is necessary to combat issues of child abuse and deliver services surrounding prevention and treatment for survivors of trauma. The agency also educates community members on signs of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Literature distributed at the event encourages people to beware of unexplained physical and behavioral changes that may be indicators of abuse.
CCAC defines sexual abuse as interaction that may or may not include physical contact. Various forms of abuse include “touching of the vagina, penis, breasts or buttocks, oral genital contact, or sexual intercourse,” said CCAC literature. “Non-contact behaviors can include voyeurism (trying to look at a child’s naked body), exhibitionism, or exposing the child to pornography.”
Warning signs of sexual abuse also include when a child cannot easily walk or sit-down at times, nightmares, bed-wetting, a change in appetite, running away or “demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior,” said CCAC. The agency also encourages people to look out for signs of neglect or parents or caregivers belittling or denying a child attention that is necessary to positive development.
Signs of physical abuse often include various markings on a child’s body including bruises, burns, and cuts that may be present in a variety of sizes and patterns that sometimes resemble the objects used to inflict abuse. During 2011, CCAC and its partners provided investigation for 1,959 cases of reported child sexual abuse, 286 cases of reported extreme physical abuse, and 23 reports from witnesses of violence. Forensic work was also provided to 1,036 children and 1,800 families were given case management, referrals, and advocacy care.
The clinic has afforded more than 3,000 hours of therapy to families and has offered presentations to more than 1,000 people to educate the community about the warning signs of child abuse and resources that are available.
There were 299 cases of Criminal Sexual Assault and 237 accounts of Criminal Sexual Abuse reported in Chicago in the last 90 days according to Chicago Police Department Crime statistics.