Twelve-year-old Anthony lived with his parents in a home with an apartment they rented. One day, Anthony told his parents that their tenant had sexually abused him, and had done so several times.
His parents immediately called the police. The police referred Anthony and his family to see us at one of our Child Advocacy Centers. Why would the police send Anthony and his parents to us? It’s because at our Child Advocacy Centers, we offer the kind of special care and services that child victims of abuse need when they face crisis.
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The first thing we offered to Anthony and his parents when they arrived was a child-friendly environment where they felt welcome. The next thing we offered was the chance for Anthony and his parents to meet with police detectives who specialized in handling cases of child abuse. Instead of having to go to a police precinct, Anthony and his parents could speak with police in a place where they felt more comfortable.
The next thing we offered was the chance for Anthony and his parents to receive help from everyone who works to help child victims of abuse – all in one place. Children like Anthony can not only meet with the police; they can meet with staff from the district attorney’s office, medical staff who perform examinations, and representatives from child protective services who can give them a range of support. In addition to these services, children can also get help from Safe Horizon’s own clinical and counseling staff, who provide expert support to help families deal with abuse.
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It was that support that Anthony would need. Anthony spoke with the detectives, who then went to find his abuser. Our medical partners also examined Anthony to make sure he was okay. Yet there was something that worried Anthony’s parents even more. When we told them about our counseling centers, Anthony’s mother became extremely interested in this.
She told us that since the abuse began, Anthony’s behavior had changed. He was no longer the happy son his parents knew, she said, and she wanted to find Anthony the help he truly seemed to need to deal with what had happened to him. Our counselors were glad to give Anthony that help.
Our counselors helped Anthony learn about the trauma that affected him, and also helped his parents understand how Anthony suffered, and what they could do to support him during a difficult period. Four weeks after we began our counseling sessions with the family, we then received great news from them.
Anthony and his parent told us that things had changed for them, and changed for the better. Anthony and his parents were communicating better, they said, not just to talk about the abuse, but to talk about the aftermath. Thanks to our support, the family had grown closer to provide one another with the comfort they each needed.
Anthony and his parents continue to heal and to grow stronger, thanks to the help of our counselors, and thanks to supporters who make it possible for our Child Advocacy Centers to be there for thousands of children who face crisis because of abuse every year.
* Client names and identifying information have been changed to protect their privacy. Images used are representations of Safe Horizon’s clients.