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THV Extra: Helping child abuse victims | News

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THV Extra: Helping child abuse victims
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Social workers have seen it all when it comes to child abuse. It ranges from sexual to physical assault to the most common-neglect. The first step to stopping it can be the hardest-getting a child to open up.

Janice McCutcheon is the director of the Cooper-Anthony Mercy Child Advocacy Center in Hot Springs. This is how she starts the conversation with kids who may be abused.

"I'm here. My name is Janice McCutcheon. I'm here to talk to you. I talk to kids about a lot of different things. This is a safe place. That's how we would start," says McCutcheon.

McCutcheon and Tracey Childress are forensic interviewers. They're not the police. They want to send a message to kids who are being abused.

"They should talk to somebody they trust, whether it be a parent or grandparent or teacher," says Childress.

The next step is the interview.

"There are cameras in the room and ability to hear and we have an observation room," says Childress. "I have a protocol that is part of that interview."

"I ask them, do you ever get any hugs? We talk about who gives you hugs and other touches you like. Like high fives, like if you're on a sports team. Then I go into touches you don't like," says Childress.

Then kids can use the therapy room filled with toys and books to help them deal with feelings of hurt or anger.

Marcie Hermann handles medical exams, if needed. Sometimes she uses Mr. Pink Monkey to show kids it doesn't hurt.

"It's a head to toe checkup. We start with the head and work our way down," says Hermann.

Hermann says it's just like going to the doctor. The nurse and interviewers try hard to make the experience easy and not as stressful. But twenty years ago, the state didn't have these type of centers or professionals.

"They didn't have training, people who had been in the field and considered experts to work with kids. They don't have specific training on how to talk to kids without leading and targeted to developmental level," says McCutcheon who took it upon herself to get training and help other centers work toward the same goal.

"We want kids to know it's not your fault. You've done nothing wrong," says McCutcheon.

Before these centers, victims would retell their traumatic stories numerous times.

"Kids would go to their school, and tell a teacher or peer they were being abused. Then the teacher would talk to them and ask them questions," says McCutcheon.

Then they may talk to a nurse, department of human services, and police.

"If they've been told you will go to prison and they're in at the police department, do you think that's an environment for disclosure?" says McCutcheon.

The center has free services to help families in the area of neglect. They help with food stamps, clothes and hygiene products.

Arkansas has a child abuse hotline number. That number is 1-800- 482-5964.

These centers are non-profits and not state-operated. So, law enforcement don't always refer families to these centers, but Mcutcheon says it is happening more often.

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