Telling our stories is not an easy task. This is especially true for children, particularly if it involves sexual abuse. When children disclose and a police report is made, providing the details of the assault is a necessary part of the legal process. Sharing this information is scary, confusing, and can trigger a lot of emotions for child victims and their families.
The police, staff of The Children’s Justice Center (CJC) and The Sex Abuse Treatment Center (SATC) recognized the need years ago for a support service for children when they disclose information about sexual assault during the police interview. As a result, SATC began providing on-site crisis counseling in 2001 to children and their families at the CJC of O‘ahu, including those under the jurisdiction of the Department of Human Services – Child Welfare Services (CWS).
“This collaboration benefits victims and families who are in crisis. All of the players present are there on behalf of the child, each playing a different yet important role,” states Jasmine MauMukai, statewide director of the CJC.
A program of the Judiciary, the CJC provides a caring, nonthreatening environment to children who are interviewed by police. Adorned with colorful children’s artwork, the CJC has a quaint, homey feel that provides a safe space for youth to disclose what happened to them.
“It is a really difficult time for families,” says Rachel Pfund, SATC crisis intervention therapist, “and we are there to validate their feelings, concerns and bravery.” With SATC at the CJC, immediate emotional support is provided to children and families in crisis, leading to much better outcomes in their healing.
Though the police interview by nature is investigative, SATC’s presence is neutral and solely there to help children and families cope with the process. “I see [victims] feel a lot better,” says Detective Darrien Thornley with the Honolulu Police Department Sex Crimes Detail.
“Helping families navigate a system and feel supported allows them to have a conversation about choices and next steps,” says Lisa Pang-Saito, CJC multidisciplinary team coordinator. “There is much better coordination, psychological and emotional support for children.”
There is a genuine respect among the agencies for each of their roles. Always childcentered, this collaboration brought a true system of care to fruition for victims. One parent wrote of the services her family received at CJC: “Everyone has been extremely helpful and compassionate during this time. As a mother I really do appreciate everyone is concerned for the well-being of my children. Thank you to all of the staff for your continued support.” Telling is downright hard. However, with a partnership in place to support children, it makes telling something so personal and difficult just a little bit easier – allowing for the first steps of healing to take place.