Ten years ago, Northern Michigan professionals dealing with child abuse recognized the damage created when children, already traumatized by abuse, were asked to repeat their experiences over and over to law enforcement, child protective services and prosecutors—thus forcing them to relive their trauma each time. Solving that issue led to the creation of Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization that serves as a response center for allegations of child abuse. While TBCAC offers counseling and prevention services for abuse victims, its primary mission is intervention.

In real-life terms, that means bringing a young victim into a safe room where the child is gently and professionally questioned while members of a multi-disciplinary team observe from another room on closed-circuit television. The questioning is simultaneously videoed so that the child won’t need to repeat their story.

Over the course of 10 years, TBCAC has conducted more than 2,400 such child forensic interviews in their coverage area of Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Wexford counties, as well as the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, according to interim Executive Director Ginger Kadlec.

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Each story of abuse is its own. Kadlec recalls a young girl rescued from sexual abuse by TBCAC.

“Since the age of four, she’d been groomed for sexual abuse by an uncle,” Kadlec says. “He told her he loved her and would marry her someday. As she got older, however, she witnessed her uncle promising similar things to a younger cousin, began fitting the pieces together and found the courage to disclose her abuse.” With TBCAC involvement, her case was expedited (and her trauma minimized) by the one-stop interview observed by the multi-disciplinary team—a process that resulted in her uncle being convicted of child sexual abuse.

TBCAC is partially funded through state and federal grants, “but relies heavily on donations from foundations and caring individuals throughout our community,” says Kadlec. That support ensures that the crucial services provided by TBCAC to help protect children from sexual abuse, physical abuse and acts of violence are sustained.