Leading the Way

Shining the spotlight on CAC leadership

Behind many successful nonprofits is a volunteer board – a team of individuals who bring a diversity of skills and a passion for the mission. This month, the CAC is shining the spotlight on four individuals who serve as officers of its 14 member board: Jayne Mohr, Pat Warner, Vernon LaLone and Regina Jaeger.

They all share a critical goal of sustaining the financial health of the organization, as well as strengthening it in order to expand services and meet increasing demand. But read on to learn how and why they got involved with the CAC and what they wish everyone knew about its work covering the six-county area and the Sovereign Nation of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

JAYNE MOHR, CHAIR

As a retired educator, Jayne Mohr understands the long-lasting trauma a child suffers from an abuse situation.

“It deeply impairs their ability to learn, thrive and grow,” says Mohr, who retired from the Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) in 2012 after 20 years as associate superintendent and capping a 38-year career in education. “Our CAC offers hope and healing!”

She first became involved with the CAC during its development more than a decade ago through her role with TCAPS. Now on the board for almost seven years, she is beginning the second year of her second term as chair.

“One in ten children will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday, and in our region, 99.6% of the perpetrators are someone the child knows and trusts,” says Mohr.

One thing she wishes everyone knew? “That our CAC is child-focused and family-friendly, offering free intervention programs and services that give hope and healing to those in need.”

Mohr and her husband, Cal Karr, have lived in Traverse City for 25 years and have a son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren in Traverse City and another son who lives in Marquette.

PAT WARNER, VICE CHAIR

With a career committed to public health, Pat Warner sees her involvement on the CAC’s board as helping a population that can’t speak for themselves.

“It’s a silent public health issue that we need to make public,” says Warner, who joined the board three years ago and serves as its vice chair.

For Warner, the one in ten statistic about abuse says it all. “To me, that constitutes a public health crisis,” she says.

After growing up in Traverse City, Warner went on to spend her career in public health in Ann Arbor. She was with the University of Michigan health system for 35 years, the last 20 as executive director of the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.

She first connected with the CAC after moving back north and had a friend who was on the board. She also chairs the CAC’s prevention council.

“I’m passionate about helping communities to own the issue of childhood sexual abuse,” she says. “We are talking about social change here.”

Warner touts the CAC’s forensic interviewers as a critical piece of its care model. With that expertise, it means that a child is interviewed once about an alleged incident instead of multiple times by multiple agencies.

“The level of expertise of the CAC staff and leadership is amazing,” she says. “Our care model is a model for the state.”

VERNON LALONE, TREASURER

As a retired CPA, Vernon LaLone is well suited for his role as treasurer on the board. He joined the organization after learning the CAC was looking for someone with his background to serve.

He immediately set up a financial reporting system for the organization that was simple and accountable. “That’s what I love to do,” says LaLone who with his wife raised a family in Elk Rapids and was an accountant for 35 years. “It was a nice, natural fit for me.”

While he wasn’t familiar with the organization previously, LaLone says he’s learned the incredible importance it has for families dealing with abuse.

“This organization specifically coordinates everything so well,” he said, of the services and support offered, “with the least amount of impact on the families as possible.”

Though he describes the pervasiveness of the issue as “mind-boggling,” he is hopeful the increasing publicity about the organization’s work and presence in the region may be a deterrent for would-be offenders.

When LaLone isn’t working with numbers, he and his wife are preparing for their new project in retirement: a bed & breakfast operation north of Elk Rapids.

REGINA JAEGER, SECRETARY

“The CAC has done a great job of raising awareness of child abuse in our region so since their beginning, I have followed the organization,” says Regina Jaeger, who joined the board two years ago and has served as secretary this past year.

Jaeger is vice president / senior trust relationship officer for Greenleaf Trust in Traverse City.  She became directly involved with the CAC after attending its annual fundraiser, Circle of Friends.

“I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for any issue that impacts children,” she says. “The CAC provides help, hope, and healing with an avenue to overcome hardship, pain, and stress from toxic experiences of sexual abuse, physical abuse and violence.”

Jaeger also served on the board for Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan for nine years so becoming involved with the CAC was a natural transition, she says.

She would like to continue to educate the community on issues of child abuse “so that the root of the problem is addressed and we’re not just focusing on symptoms of the root cause.”

She adds, “Of course, our ultimate goal is a community (and world) without abuse. If we achieved that goal, the CAC wouldn’t be needed and that would be an amazing thing.”

Jaeger lives with her husband Kevin in Traverse City and has a son who lives in Detroit.

BOARD WORK IS TEAMWORK

The CAC executive committee is charged with tending to tasks in between board meetings, but it takes a team of dedicated individuals to build the kind of momentum that the CAC has experienced during the last decade.

The full board includes Karen Browne, James Bussell, Betsy Evans, Matthew Feil, Holly Hack, Ginger Kadlec, Annelle Kaspor, Michael Long, Noelle Moeggenberg, and executive director Sue Bolde. All members serve on committees and contribute financially to the CAC on an annual basis.


SafeTeam

“Give me an S, give me an A … Go SafeTeam!”

With August comes prep for back to school (gulp!) and the start of practice for fall sports. The CAC is also ramping up for the season, with its SafeTeam sexual abuse prevention training for coaches and athletes.

Who’s eligible? Any school within the six-county area (Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Kalkaska, and Wexford) as well as the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians

How long does it take? Approximately one hour

How much does it cost? It’s free! Better yet, coaches and athletes who complete the training receive money either for their athletic department or a specific sports team to spend on equipment, uniforms or other needs.

The CAC-developed training is designed to “educate coaches and athletes on the affect sexual abuse can have and how to prevent it in an athletic setting,” said Jourdan Dean, CAC prevention coordinator.

The CAC piloted the training with about 40 coaches at Traverse City Central High School in February, after community member Jen Dutmers first brought the idea to the CAC. They decided to start with adults who spend considerable time outside school hours with children – coaches.

Additional training sessions were held this past spring and now close to 200 area coaches and athletes have completed the training, said Dean, with a goal of reaching hundreds more in the coming months.

Mitch Miggenburg, athletic director for Kingsley Area Schools, participated in the training with about a dozen of the district’s spring sports coaches and volunteers before the season kicked off.

“I got a lot of positive feedback,” Miggenburg said. “It was invaluable for them to hear that info.”

He said sexual abuse cases such as those involving athletes at Michigan State University and USA Swimming drive home the importance of doing something like this at the small, local level.

In addition to knowing how to recognize the signs of abuse and understand the proper protocol to follow if abuse is suspected, the coaches learned about situations to try to avoid. For example, limiting one-on-one time between athletes and coaches, such as offering a student a ride home or waiting with him or her after practice until a ride shows up, and how to handle these situations differently.

Miggenburg plans to continue the training with the fall and winter sports.

“I highly recommend it to local area schools,” he said.

While the training is tailored to the audience, the objectives are the same – how to protect the athletic community from the risk of abuse, how to recognize the signs of abuse, and how to respond responsibly.

“The goal is that all who attend become vigilant advocates for those on their team,” said Dean.

Being able to give money to typically cash-strapped athletic programs is another positive outcome of the prevention program, she added.

Anne Morrison Perry, a former CAC board member and former teacher and coach at Traverse City Area Public Schools, donated the initial $5,000 to get the training program off the ground. The CAC also recently received $5,000 from Cherryland Cares, a charitable fund of Cherryland Electric, and $5,000 from the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation to continue to fund the financial incentive for area schools.

Any school interested in learning more or scheduling training can contact Jourdan Dean.


REWIND

Sasha Joseph Neulinger’s portrait of healing explores how abuse affects children and reframes their world.

Old home movies can be funny, sweet, and sometimes even a little cringe-worthy. But imagine if they showed a heartbreaking and devastating past?

It’s in those home movies that filmmaker Sasha Joseph Neulinger saw a typical, happy-go-lucky child turn into an angry and withdrawn little boy. That four-year-old boy was him.

Rewind, Neulinger’s autobiographical documentary about surviving multi-generational child sexual abuse, is coming to the Traverse City Film Festival after its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. Neulinger will also be in attendance.

Neulinger was 23 when he started work on the documentary – his first feature-length film and directorial debut.

“Six years ago I was at a crossroads,” said Neulinger, 29. Though he was doing well, he said – having finished college and working at National Geographic – “things from my past, that I didn’t understand, were affecting my present day life. I had unanswered questions about my childhood and what had happened to me. Questions I felt could be answered through the home videos.”

So he asked his father to send him the recordings – some 200 hours worth.

“Basically, from the time I was born, cameras were in my life,” said Neulinger, whose father, also a filmmaker, spent countless hours recording his family’s daily life and helped inspire his son’s interest in film.

Neulinger digitized the home videos and “re-watched his childhood,” he said. He watched his abusers interacting with him at family events. But he also watched some good moments.

“It was an incredible experience,” he said of the process – allowing him to understand his past and create a new context, but also to reclaim beautiful memories.

When Neulinger was four years old he was sexually abused for the first time by his uncle. The abuse continued for several more years and included other family members. He disclosed the abuse when he was eight.

He said for every question he got answered by the watching the videos, more would surface – and through interviews with his mother, father and therapist got the answers he needed.

“There’s a difference between surviving something and understanding something so you can overcome it,” Neulinger said. “My personal philosophy is if a memory is too painful to touch with your mind or your heart, it’s asking to be explored. This film became that exploration.”

He hopes the film helps to “transcend the gap between the mainstream audience and people affected by childhood sexual abuse.”

Neulinger works and lives in Montana, but has family connections to Michigan and is thrilled to be able to bring his film here.

Read more about him and his work in support of other survivors of childhood sexual abuse here.


BELIEVED

Lindsey Smith, co-host of the NPR podcast Believed about the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case, to speak at CAC event in October.

How did he get away with it? And, for so long?

That is the question asked – and answered – over and again in the podcast Believed, an intimate telling of how former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar was able to sexually abuse girls and women for more than two decades.

Listen and you’ll hear survivors telling specific details of their abuse. You’ll hear parents telling how they failed to believe their children. You’ll hear how Nassar fooled police, and you’ll hear from Nassar himself.

You’ll also learn – how the abuse went on for so long, how survivors found their voices even in the face of doubt, and how they were finally believed.

Lindsey Smith, one of the reporter duo who co-hosted Believed, will share the lessons learned from interviewing Nassar survivors when she comes to Traverse City for the CAC’s annual Circle of Friends luncheon in October.

Smith, the investigative reporter for Michigan Radio, teamed up with fellow reporter Kate Wells on the podcast that was released last fall by Michigan Radio and NPR. Not only are people tuning in to what is admittedly not an easy listen, but Smith and Wells have received national recognition for the storytelling project – including a Livingston Award, which recognizes the work of journalists under the age of 35.

Smith said the goal with the podcast was that it be relatable to anyone with kids in their lives – people who think they would be able to spot a predator from a mile away, hope they could recognize abuse, or believe the seemingly unbelievable.

But as the hosts say in the podcast’s introduction, serial sexual predators “get away because we let them.” The subsequent episodes tell exactly how.

Wells had been the lead reporter on the Nassar case for Michigan Radio since 2016. Smith said that even after Wells’ extensive reporting, she felt strongly there was more to be told and she pushed for it. And after more than 150 women showed up in a Michigan courtroom in January 2018 to speak at Nassar’s sentencing for multiple sex crimes, push came to shove. There was more to learn from these survivors.

“I think the first episode sells it, and that’s on purpose,” Smith said. “There are other Larry Nassars out there … and their weapons are not guns, their weapons are not knives, their weapon is trust.”

She hopes others can learn, just as she and Wells did, about how Nassar and other serial sexual predators like him operate.

“Yes, by the end I know how he got away,” said Smith. “He was able to portray himself as someone more trustable than anyone else.”

Find the Believed podcast here or wherever you listen to podcasts.


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 hrodriguez@traversebaycac.org 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

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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