Protecting Children, Promoting Justice
4 Court St Concord NH
Our Mission is to serve and protect abused children through the collaborative actions of a multidisciplinary team of community professionals in law enforcement, prosecution, child protection, medical, mental health and advocacy.
What is a Child Advocacy Center?
Based on a nationally recognized model and New Hampshire's largest operating child advocacy center, the Merrimack County Child Advocacy Center works closely with area police departments, child protection services, prosecution, mental health providers, pediatricians and schools. At our office in Concord, we provide a neutral setting for joint investigations and interviews, case tracking and referrals to community agencies for children and families.
Child Advocacy Centers Provide These Important Benefits:
- Trauma experienced by children is reduced
- Non-offending parents are empowered to protect and support their children
- Children receive prompt and ongoing services tailored to their family's needs
- Allegations of abuse and neglect are more thoroughly investigated
- More offenders are held accountable and the community is better educated about the problem of child abuse
The MCCAC is also a resource to local police departments, providing consultation and specialized training. This is all provided to children, families and child protection professionals at no cost to them.
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse occurs when a person forces a child to have any form of sexual contact or makes a child perform sexual acts. Sexual abuse may involve touching private parts (clothed or unclothed), penetration using an object or a body part, forced sexual acts between children, or making the child view, read or participate in pornography. These acts are abuse even when the offenders say they were gentle and did not hurt the child.
Sexual abuse is also known as molestation and exploitation. Sexual molestation does not always mean sexual intercourse. Sometimes older children molest young or smaller children. Sexual acts between children become molestation when one child uses coercion, force to get the child to do the acts or if there is a significant age or size between the children. Children acting out sexually should be reported to social service agencies so they can receive help.
Sexual molestation is overwhelming to children, especially when an adult is involved. Most children are taught to trust adults. They tend to believe what adults tell them is true rather then to rely on their feelings. This works against them in two ways. If the offender tells them that what is being done is OK, they may doubt their own feelings that it is not. If a parents' initial reaction when they hear the child' molestation report is "This can't be true", the child may wonder if his or her own feelings are mistaken. Children almost never tell about abuse to "create problems". More often, they fear that telling will make people angry at them. It is extremely difficult for children to report sexual abuse.
The Investigation Process
The Merrimack County Child Advocacy Center makes referrals to other community agencies that offer services to help your child overcome the effects of trauma. Children react differently depending on age, extent of abuse, support form others and their relationship with the offender.
CAC Interview with a Child
The single most important factor affecting the child's recovery is the level of support from the parents or caregivers.
It is this simple. If you do everything you can to support your child, the chances of recovery are much greater. If you feel torn between loyalty to your child and loyalty to the offender, the Child Advocacy Center has services available to help you sort it out.
The following describes the process and basic steps to an investigation of child abuse:
- Someone reports suspicion of abuse to authorities, either law enforcement or the Division for Children, Youth and Families
- An interview with the child is conducted, usually at the Child Advocacy Center
- A medical exam is conducted, if necessary.
- Law Enforcement and/or DCYF continue the investigation, which will include an interview with the alleged offender, if possible.
- A team of professionals will meet to discuss the case and decide how to manage it. This team consists of law enforcement, assistant county attorney's, child protective workers, mental health providers and a medical doctor. The team will stay in contact with your family as the case progresses.
- The case may be referred to District or Criminal Court, or some other plan may be made for managing the case.
No More Multiple Interviews
Multiple interviews of a child abuse victim not only increase the trauma to an already traumatized child but they are counterproductive to conducting a solid investigation. The Child Advocacy Center brings together all pieces of the multi-disciplinary team to one child friendly, neutral location so that one interview can be conducted and all relevant parties are represented. Everyone's questions are asked, and the child only has one investigative interview conducted by a trained forensic interviewer skilled at interviewing children. Nationally collected data reports that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before their eighteenth birthday and that only one in ten discloses the abuse. The CAC seeks to provide the best possible environment for those children reporting and to prevent future abuse through outreach and education. The National Children's Alliance reports that in that in municipalities where a Child Advocacy Center is now utilized as opposed to prior to the Center's involvement, there is a 40% increase in successful prosecution of these cases.