How A Multi-Disciplinary Approach And Early Treatment Can Benefit Child Sexual Abuse Victims

Kent County in Michigan recently announced the opening of an expanded Children's Advocacy Center to provide services to child victims of sexual abuse.

The larger facility was needed because of continued demands for services for children facing this trauma. According to the director of the program, the center serves more than 1,000 children a year. Until the new facility was opened, child victims had to wait as long as three months for the services they needed.

For more than 25 years, the agency has applied, like many other child advocacy centers, a multi-disciplinary approach to intervention with children recovering from sexual abuse. A multi-disciplinary approach means all the services that are part of the investigation and intervention in child sexual abuse cases are located in the same facility.

Having law enforcement, medical professionals, and child protective services in the same location with other advocacy services means that a child only needs to tell his or her story one time – in one place, and everyone who needs access to the information has what they need. Emily Linnert "New Center for Child Sexual Abuse Victims Opens" (Jan. 18, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

According to the National Child Advocacy Center, there are more than 950 child advocacy centers around the country, serving 300,000 children with a multi-disciplinary approach. Unfortunately, the need for services continues to grow each year and the effects of child sexual abuse can last a lifetime.

Studies have shown that child sexual abuse victims have better results and recover quicker with caring, supportive, safe adults in their life. Early intervention is essential to the long-term recovery of a child who experiences sexual abuse. Child Information Gateway; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Children Affected by Child Sexual Abuse or Trauma” (2012).

Children are resilient and can bounce back from all sorts of setbacks and traumatic events with the proper support. Early intervention makes it possible for children to move beyond the abuse and without lasting effects. 

Delaying the initial intervention with children for three months can result in long-term consequences. What are the long-term consequences for children who have survived sexual abuse, if treatment and support are delayed?

  • They experience themselves as "damaged goods"
  • They have a sense of powerlessness
  • They feel guilty about their own role in the situation
  • They are angry at parents for not knowing and protecting them
  • They suffer from depression, other mental health disorders, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty sleeping
  • They avoid people and places that are reminders of the abuse
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