Onsite medical services are also offered at 30 of the Texas centers, including the WCCAC.
Other centers with less access to coordinated services transport victims to area hospitals, sometimes for long distances, which may further traumatize them.
Deborah Kleypas, a sexual assault nurse examiner and forensic nurse leads the WCCAC’s medical program. She and her nursing staff perform about 30 child exams a month.
In April alone, 20 of the children examined were sexually abused, and the rest were physically abused and/or neglected.
Children receive medical forensic examinations, which include physical assessments, sexually transmitted infections screening and pregnancy testing.
The nursing staff provides medical referrals and treatment for victims when appropriate.
The most common abuse treated at the CACs is sexual, and over 90 percent of those abusers are someone the child knows and trusts.
Licensed therapists provide counseling for the children and non-offending family members.
Therapy is offered until the age of 18, even if the child abuse occurred at an early age. Many children begin to feel the need for this extra support when they reach puberty or their cases go to trial, or for other triggering events.
In 2017, 180 clients received counseling, and 221 were counseled in 2018.
Under a state law passed last year, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is requiring CACs to initiate more responses to child abuse victims.
The law increased the need for WCCAC’s services, including more forensic interviews, family advocacy, forensic medical exams and counseling.
Despite the uptick in clients, many people still don’t know the WCCAC exists or its role in child abuse investigations.
Tori Algiere, outreach coordinator, speaks at schools and daycare centers to bring awareness. Stannell makes presentations at community events and meetings.
If you ask Stannell what her most pressing need is, she’ll respond, “Space! Our building is overflowing, with some offices shared by two and three individuals.”
Another of her priorities is offering counseling in other parts of the county.
It’s one thing for a child and the family to come to the center for a one-time interview and medical exam, but it’s much harder to come every week for therapy, especially if they live in far west or far east Williamson County.
WCCAC staff meets monthly with its partners like the Wilco district attorney, county attorney and sheriff’s offices, local police departments, victim services and others to review cases and identify additional resources.
Despite the challenges, Stannell said, “Our greatest reward is seeing devastated, sometimes suicidal young people learn the tools that help them heal and go on to become outspoken advocates against child abuse.”
I join Stannell in asking our Wilco residents for in-kind donations of snacks and water bottles that can be dropped off at the front door. Buy tickets to their fundraisers too! The WCCAC is a 501-c3 non-profit.
For more information, including their location, please visit http://www.wilcocac.org or call 512-943-3701.
My hope is to find those dollars to expand the WCCAC’s current space and extend their counseling services throughout the county.