NCVRW 2017 Virtual Art Show at TBCAC

At the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, we are excited for our plans for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week!

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), is April 2nd–8th and this year’s theme is “Strength. Resilience. Justice.” NCVRW is celebrated throughout the country and is a week in which we are reminded of the strength and courage victims have. We are reminded to meet victims where they are, listen to what their needs are and understand how we might be able to help them in recovery and through justice. It is important that we are all aware that crime victims have rights and that we, as a community, come together to show our support to each victim where they are at. Victims of crime are all in different places in their healing process and cannot all be treated the same. This week also reminds us to keep fighting for victims everyday, as they are fighting a lifetime of pain and suffering.

We will be hosting a Virtual Art Show April 2nd-8th displaying artwork created by victims while they are at our Center for a forensic interview, counseling or ongoing supports.

At the TBCAC, therapists often use art with their clients to help them express feelings and ideas that may be hard to articulate with words. Art expression is a powerful way to safely contain, and create separation from, the terrifying experience of trauma without relying on verbal language to share one’s story. We asked some of the children and adolescents who come through our doors to contribute a piece of their art drawing for our show to be on display for the week. They were encouraged to express feelings they had about themselves, others in their lives, and activities that make them feel safe and strong. Pride and excitement were seen on their faces as they handed over their creations. Resilience exists within every child. It is built and supported by caregivers, therapists, and community members who encourage that light to shine brighter every day.

Since 2010, the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center has reached over 1,200 children, 300 during last year alone. The TBCAC works with six counties in our region, each with its own particular team of organizations and resources working to help crime victims. We take pride in our teamwork and know that together, we are creating communities to provide the Strength, Resilience, and Justice that NCVRW embodies.

CLICK HERE to view our NCVRW Virtual Art Show on Facebook.

Shedding Light on Sex Trafficking

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 10.39.14 AMShedding Light on Sex Trafficking

A new publication has been released from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Luskin Center for Innovation entitled “Shedding Light on Sex Trafficking: Research, Data and Technologies with the Greatest Impact.”

The value of the report lies not in the novelty of its content but rather in the way it can be used to help communities organize their efforts to combat human trafficking, with resources for technology to assist in those efforts.

According to the report, childhood sexual abuse is the most commonly identified antecedent to commercial sexual exploitation and sexual victimization. Between 70 percent and 90 percent of child sexual exploitation cases have a history of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. Furthermore, in their lifetime these children are 28 times more likely to be detained on “prostitution charges” than their non-sexually abused counterparts.

Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) have an important role to play as we interview children to assess for high-risk and/or current commercial sexual exploitation. CACs are also a critical part of the healing and recovery process for these victims, as with any other victims of child abuse. The report specifically points to the CAC model as the best practice for provision of services.

“Currently, there is no standard of care for human trafficked survivors. Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC) serve as a model of how service providers can mitigate re-traumatization for child abuse victims. Developed in the 1980s, CACs have positively transformed services for and treatment of child victims of suspected maltreatment (e.g. sexual abuse) through a centralized and comprehensive approach.”

Click here for a complete version of the report.

TBCAC Local Council: Request for Safe Sleep Proposals

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As a recipient of grant dollars from the Michigan Children’s Trust Fund, the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center and its local council must commit to raising awareness and providing support around the issue of safe sleep in Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau counties. In accordance with this requirement, the Local Council for this region is requesting proposals from nonprofit organizations that wish to purchase and distribute safe sleep materials in their area as well as educate community members about safe sleep practices.

The purpose of this project is to grant safe sleep funds to nonprofit organizations with the capacity to carry out safe sleep education and distribution of resources to infant caregivers within Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau counties. Successful proposals should include plans for purchasing materials (i.e. safe sleep sacks, pack and plays, etc), as well as delivering face to face education to those receiving materials.

Nonprofit organizations serving Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, or Leelanau counties that provide safe sleep programming to infant caregivers may apply for these funds. Proof of 501(c)(3) status must be included with proposals. Proposals are to be submitted by Friday, March 11th at 5pm. Please review the full 2016 Safe Sleep RFP for more details. For questions regarding the process, or to submit a proposal, contact Hannah Rodriguez at or at (231) 929-4250. Thank you for your support in spreading Safe Sleep awareness throughout our region and please feel free to share within your networks!

2016 Safe Sleep RFP

You’re pretty special. Just saying.

Andy Schmitt 2

There’s no TECHY on staff at TBCAC.

We are a flock of empathic, sensitive, diligent individuals committed to protecting children and promoting their wellbeing. We are strategic-thinkers and do-gooders who aim to change the world.

We don’t know much about building databases. We don’t know much about hooking up audio visual stuff. We understand that WiFi exists, but we have no idea how.



And yet, we utilize sophisticated technology every day in the investigation of child abuse cases.

We just turn on a switch. Thanks to Andy Schmitt.

Andy is a well-respected IT Guru in the Grand Traverse Region. He is also a TBCAC volunteer who donates his time and talent to hear our concerns, ask thoughtful questions, and create brilliant solutions so that our technology runs efficiently and effectively. For the benefit of the children.

You’re pretty special, Andy.  Just saying.



Be More Awesome.

New Year's Resolution

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year again. Time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re headed. Time to give voice to inspired intentions. Time to take action to transform our dreams into reality.

During the past 12 months, the TBCAC grew from serving two counties to five. We facilitated twice as many prevention programs and experienced record-breaking numbers of interviews. More than 860 children have walked through our doors since launching our Center merely five years ago.

And yet, we want to be more awesome than last year.

In 2016, we intend to strengthen our framework as a trauma-informed organization. Every staff member, from the person who answers the phone to the executive director, will seek to better understand the impact of trauma — an important step towards living in compassionate and supportive community.

We plan to intensify our efforts to build cross-sector collaboration. We commit to cultivating a positive climate for our teams to recognize, appreciate and capitalize on diverse perspectives that enhance shared decision-making — a place where questions and opinions are valued and respected, a place where solutions are discovered and lives are changed forever.

We resolve to persist in educating the region about child abuse prevention. Momentum is building as citizens acquire the knowledge and skills to keep our children safe. As we expand our outreach within the Grand Traverse Region and beyond, we pledge to be a strong leader and partner in creating vibrant and healthy communities.

The best is yet to come for the TBCAC.

Join us. Be more awesome.


When Things Go Right


Carly Bentley & Gwen Taylor



“I felt it was important to let you know…







December 16, 2015

Mrs. Bolde,

I recently made use of your facility to assist me in a complaint our department was investigating. This was the first time I have used a Child Advocacy Center, and I wanted to let you know how impressed I was with your staff. Family Advocate Gwen Taylor initially assisted in the in-processing. As you know, successful investigation of possible child abuse cases frequently hinge on the small details involved in the case. Having someone who can do this preliminary work with the family so professionally, as Gwen did, was a great help to me.

I was one of the first group of law enforcement officers to undergo the Child Forensic Interview training. Even though I have been doing these types of interviews for a long time, there are certain elements, such as the sex and age of the child, that can affect the successful outcome of the interview. If the child is not comfortable with the interviewer from the beginning, the likelihood of a favorable outcome is reduced. It was a real learning experience watching Carly Bentley do such a professional job. I have observed other interviewers in the past, but none who’s skill and rapport were as good as hers. In the future, I will incorporate many of the techniques I learned watching her into my own interview process.

Having been in law enforcement for 23 years, I am well aware that management always hears when things go wrong, and rarely hears when things go right. Having seen your staff first hand, I felt it was important to let you know how impressed I was with their dedication and professionalism. It’s rare when a resource is available that actually makes law enforcement’s job easier, and this was definitely one of them.

I have already told members of other local law enforcement agency about my experience with TBCAC, and highly recommend they make use of an excellent available resource. Thank you for your time. I look forward to working with TBCAC in the future.

Officer Mark Torrence
Cheboygan City Police Department


Budget Pact Raids Victims Funds


The government’s just-approved budget deal takes $1.5 billion from a fund for crime victims and uses it instead to help pay for federal spending, drawing on a growing reserve collected from settlements with banks and major corporations. The unprecedented transfer, part of closed-door negotiations between the Obama administration and congressional leaders, has raised the ire of advocates. They say it violates the integrity of a decades-old program that funds safe havens for domestic violence victims, counseling for abused children and financial aid for murder victims’ families, among other programs.

The administration and Republican congressional leaders averted a partial government shutdown by striking a two-year budget deal approved by Congress last week. As part of the pact the Crime Victims Fund will lose $1.5 billion to the general treasury, Obama administration officials said. The $1.5 billion shift is just one step negotiators took to fund about $80 billion in spending above budget limits called the sequestration. Others include $5.1 billion to be raised by selling 58 million barrels of oil of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and $4.4 billion by auctioning off airwave spectrum. Since the fund’s creation in 1984 by the Victims of Crime Act, it has gathered money from fines imposed on criminals and set it aside to pay for services for crime victims. But during the Obama administration, as major banks and corporations paid large sums to settle Justice Department investigations, the fund ballooned from about $3 billion to nearly $12 billion at the end of the 2014 budget year, according to the department.

Then, in 2015 alone, the Justice Department struck deals that will result in payments to the fund totaling over $5 billion, according to figures compiled by an association of state officials who run victim-assistance programs. That included a $1.1 billion payment by Credit Suisse AG for helping Americans hide assets from the Internal Revenue Service; $140 million from BNP Paribas bank for violating U.S. sanctions; and $925 million from Citicorp to settle a probe into the bank’s role in rigging foreign currency exchange rates.

Some of that money has not actually arrived in the fund yet, but has been promised in legal settlements. The fund’s growing size has presented policy makers with a dilemma. When the fund began, the government paid out almost every dollar it received. But in 2000, Congress began capping the amount paid each year to ensure a steady stream of money for victims’ services. From 2000 to 2008, the fund grew from $1 billion to $3 billion. As its balance kept rising, White House accountants were able to use the cash in an accounting move to offset government spending. Now, Congress and the White House have struck a deal to go further, by agreeing to withdraw some 10% of the money to directly fund the government.

Victims’ advocates say the move could set a dangerous precedent and encourage lawmakers to keep dipping into a pot of money intended to help crime victims, not to pay government bills. “It’s a threat to the integrity of the fund,’’ said Steve Derene, executive director of the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators, a group of state and local officials who oversee crime victim programs. Mr. Derene said he was concerned about the long-term implications of using crime victim money for general government spending. Two years ago, the fund distributed about $745 million for victims services. That jumped last year to almost $2.4 billion, most in grants to state and local groups that provide counseling, aid or other services. The proposed White House budget for fiscal 2016, which started Oct. 1, would give $1 billion to victim-services groups. Budget officials said it was a coincidence that the proposed reduction from last year’s $2.4 billion is about the same as the amount to be transferred out of the fund to general spending.

An administration official declined to explain what is behind the proposed cut, but said that Congress could increase the amount paid above the administration’s proposal. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) referred questions about the fund to the White House. In Phoenix, the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, which helps homeless, runaway and at-risk youth, recently received its first grant from the fund, said spokesman Ken Lynch.

“Thank goodness for rogue corporations,’’ said Mr. Lynch. “I can’t think of a better use of money coming in as a penalty than to use it to help the most vulnerable and most abused people in our society.’’ Mr. Lynch called the $600,000 grant “a godsend’’ that will be used to provide shelter and counseling for young victims of sex trafficking. “It’s very disheartening to hear that money for victims would be utilized for purposes other than the original intent.”

A Partnership for the Victims of Child Abuse



BY RICK CHARMOLI  | October 26, 2015

WEXFORD — A new partnership between Wexford County and a national organization with local ties is looking to help protect children when they need it most.

Recently, Wexford County has entered into talks with the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center. The Traverse City center is a regional response center for the protection and well-being of children. It provides prevention education and multidisciplinary intervention in the investigation, assessment and treatment of child sexual abuse, child physical abuse and for children who witness violence.

Children’s Advocacy Centers were first developed in the United States in the 1980s and were designed to reduce the stress on child abuse victims and families created by traditional child abuse investigation and prosecution procedures and to improve the effectiveness of the response.

Sue Bolde is the executive director of the Traverse City CAC and she said the goal of the organization is to do the work that needs to be done in any abuse case that is sensitive, supportive and safe for the child. Currently, Bolde said the Traverse City office serves five counties including Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim, Kalkaska and Benzie as well as the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

“At our core our model is teamwork. We bring everyone (law enforcement, child protective services, and the prosecuting attorney) together at the front end and we put the child first,” she said. “The CAC model brings the system to the child.”

For example, if the team comprised of the different agencies decides a child would benefit from counseling services, the decision can be made immediately and care can begin from either right at the CAC’s office or through a referral, Bolde said.

Wexford County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Chris Piskor said the benefit the CAC provides is huge. It not only helps the child and their family deal with abuse but also helps law enforcement. In particular, Piskor said the CAC can do the forensic interview of the victim.

A forensic interview is a structured conversation with a child intended to elicit detailed information about a possible event or events a child may have experienced or witnessed. There are several purposes of a forensic interview. They include obtaining information from a child that may be helpful in a criminal investigation; assessing the safety of a child’s living arrangements; obtaining information that will either corroborate or refute allegations or suspicions of abuse and neglect; and assessing the need for medical treatment and psychological care.

“We can’t ask leading questions. You can’t ask follow up questions,” Piskor said of the forensic interview process. “We don’t have the facility here at the sheriff’s office that is conducive to doing an interview with a child. The CAC is more like your living room and it creates an environment that makes the child feel more safe. For us, that is a huge advantage.”

Piskor also said there is only one chance to do a forensic interview and while he is trained to do them, he does not do them all the time. The CAC has someone who does these on a regular basis and has the expertise to make sure the process is done correctly each time.

Bolde said the person who does the interviews at the CAC is trained in child development and follows the strict protocols for forensic interviews.

“In more rural areas, police are doing a lot of different things. It is unfair to expect them to switch roles and feel good about their work,” she said. “That is why we are a tremendous assistance to rural communities.”

Although Bolde said the CAC is in the process of getting an agreement in place with Wexford County, she also said once that is in place she will be looking at finding local partners to have linkage agreements with. That would be for things such as medical or mental health partners but also other services.

Healing Private Wounds Executive Director Shirley Petersen said she believes having the CAC partner with Wexford County is a great idea and one she would be willing to support. She also said she believes her organization would be willing to be one of the local partners with the CAC.

“I believe it is a good thing. The more agencies that collaborate together and spread the news. It (abuse) is out there and there are services available,” Petersen said. “We need to work as a community. That is important.”

While Piskor, as well as Undersheriff Trent Taylor, have said the rate of sexual abuse and criminal sexual conduct doesn’t seem to be rising, so far this year the sheriff’s office has investigated 24 cases. Piskor said he looked at 19 of the 24 cases and 17 of those 19 he looked at had victims under the age of 18.

Petersen said when you look at the stats, it can be alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in five females and one in seven males will experience some sort of sexual abuse. Most victims who experience sexual abuse are under the age of 6.

While those numbers are alarming, Petersen said what is more shocking is there are probably more that go unreported. That said, Petersen is encouraged to see more people, both males and females, coming forward looking for help.

“It is good that people are more free to talk about it and we are getting more younger people who are talking about it. The younger you begin the healing the better you will be,” she said. “They don’t carry the shame, and fall into the pitfalls of feeling unworthy, dirty or using drugs and alcohol to cover up how they are feeling.”

For more information about the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, log on to and for more information about or to find support from Healing Private Wounds in Cadillac, log on to or call (231) 846-4495.


Preventing Abuse Through Story, Song

Miriam and Jenifer

Singer and song writer Miriam Pico, left, and storyteller Jenifer Strauss rehearse for their story time presentation, “My Body Belongs to Me,” for pre-schoolers and kindergarteners on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse at the Traverse Area District Library Woodmere Branch.


BY SARAH ELMS | October 11, 2015

TRAVERSE CITY — Jenifer Strauss and Miriam Pico aim to reduce child sexual abuse through story and song.

The local storyteller and singer-songwriter are teaming up with officials from the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center and the Traverse Area District Library to host a special story time geared toward young kids and their families.

“This topic is a sensitive one, but it’s also a really important one,” Strauss said.

Strauss and Pico will adapt stories and songs from children’s books like, “My Body Belongs to Me” by Jill Stareshevsky and “Some Secrets Should Never be Kept” by Jayneen Sanders at the Oct. 12 event.

Using stories and sing-along songs is a gentle way to spark a dialogue about protecting children and preventing abuse, said Cathy Lancaster, TADL Youth Services Coordinator.

“It’s really meant to leave them with the understanding that they control their space and their bodies and there is a difference between secrets and surprises,” Lancaster said. “It’s a tough conversation, but I think Jenifer and Miriam really present it more about empowering young children.”

Child sexual abuse impacts one in 10 children, and younger children often are the most at-risk, said Hannah Rodriguez, prevention coordinator at the CAC.

“Children are often sexually abused during preschool and kindergarten age because that’s when they’re the most vulnerable,” she said. “This is the age we want to start talking about it.”
The program is an encore of a similar story time held in April, brought back to the library at the request of community members.

Organizers are offering a late-morning and evening presentation to reach as many school groups, childcare centers and parents as possible.

“I think it’s such a sensitive topic that a lot of parents want to be there with their child,” Lancaster said. “I think there’s a lot for parents to learn as well in terms of how to speak with their children about these things and making children feel comfortable to confide in them.”

The CAC is in the early stages of applying for grants to fund similar programs at schools and libraries across the state.

“The goal is to put this show on the road so we can reach a larger audience, so it doesn’t stop here and the message continues,” Strauss said.

The two special story times are set for Oct. 12 at 11 a.m. and at 6:30 p.m. at the main library branch on Woodmere Avenue in Traverse City. Call the library’s youth services department at 231-932-8503 for more information or to register a group of 10 or more.

Storyteller Jenifer Strauss uses puppets Sniggle, left, and Snaggle as part of her presentation with singer and song writer Miriam Pico on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse.

Storyteller Jenifer Strauss uses puppets Sniggle, left, and Snaggle as part of her presentation with singer and song writer Miriam Pico on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse.

One in 10: Teachers taught signs of child sexual abuse



BY SARAH ELMS | September 3, 2015

TRAVERSE CITY — Nearly 600 Traverse City Area Public Schools employees will go through a new safety training before classes resume next week — one that focuses on keeping children safe outside of the classroom.

The Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center through a grant from the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation is providing free training throughout the community on how adults can identify and respond to child sexual abuse.
“What we want everyone to walk away with is more knowledge and more tools to make sure that when we’re interacting with children we’re doing everything we can to really listen to them and keep them safe,” the center’s Prevention Coordinator Hannah Rodriguez said.

Suttons Bay Public Schools held a training on Sunday, and TCAPS’ training kicked off on Tuesday. It’s the first time local districts participated in the sessions on such a large scale, Rodriguez said.

“We used to talk about stranger danger, and we found out in the training that in over 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases the abuser is someone the child knows and trusts,” Superintendent Paul Soma said. “It’s real important stuff. It’s part of our safety and security measures.”

Traverse City High School Principal Lance Morgan sits on the center’s board of directors. He said the training gives educators the tools they need to address abuse, but it also spurs conversation around a startling statistic: One in 10 children is sexually abused before they turn 18.

“The more that we can make people aware of the situation, I think the safer everybody is going to be,” he said.

Morgan hopes the training is the first of more to come both within TCAPS and at other districts in the region.

“I think it’s certainly important to get the certified staff trained, but it’s equally important to get our bus drivers, our custodians, our secretaries and our administrative staff trained,” he said. “It’s absolutely my hope that other districts and the ISD take a look at this for their staff.”