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Archive for Sunday, March 4, 2007

Grant to help create center for young sex-crime victims

March 4, 2007

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For the youngest victims of sexual assault, speaking about the crime in an uncomfortable setting can be intimidating.

Getting children in Lawrence the physical exam necessary to prosecute the case isn't any easier; currently, the only hospitals in the region able to perform the exams are in Topeka and the Kansas City area.

Currently, interviews with child victims are conducted in schools, SRS offices and in the child interview room at the Lawrence Police Department's Investigation and Training Center in west Lawrence.

That's why Lynnea Kaufman, a social services supervisor for the Social and Rehabilitation Services office in Lawrence, and others are hoping recently acquired federal money will lead to a local center where advocates and investigators can provide the kind of services needed to aid young victims of sex crimes.

The GaDuGi Safe Center, which provides rape survivor services, and SRS earlier this year secured the $28,000 federal grant to help plan for the center, which they hope to name the Signal Oak Child Advocacy Center.

"Our intent would be to serve as many people as possible," said Sarah Jane Russell, executive director of GaDuGi Safe Center. "It will center everything and be all about kids."

Using the grant funds, organizers will develop plans for the county's current child interview settings, present plans for the center to the community and begin the forensic training for in-house interviewers.

That information and training would then help organizers provide services they say are required to ensure that sex crimes are correctly addressed.

Those services include:

¢ A child-friendly facility where children would feel more comfortable speaking openly about what they believe happened to them.

¢ A centralized location where members of the county's Child Abuse Response Team - which includes law enforcement, medical personnel, social workers and advocates - can work collectively on child abuse cases.

¢ A local facility where children could receive physical exams and interviews from experts trained to identify signs of sexual abuse.

Without the center, families of child abuse victims will likely have to continue to drive their children out of town to get examined.

Records show the Lawrence Police Department and Douglas County Sheriff's Office investigated 91 allegations of child sexual assault in 2005, the most recent figures available - 43 of which were sent to the district attorney's office for possible charges.

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