The Power of Prevention

The Power of Prevention

by Lynn Geiger

One of the powers that all of us have is the power to help prevent childhood sexual abuse. But how, you may be asking yourself?

As a supporter of the Traverse Bay CAC, I recently attended a prevention program offered to people in our community, including employees of the Traverse City Area Public Schools. I don’t have children. I don’t work with them on a daily basis. But I have friends with children who I care deeply about. So, I decided to attend and see what I could learn.

The program, Darkness to Light’s “Stewards of Children,” is a nationally-recognized, two-hour training that shares techniques for adults to protect children from abuse, discusses how to talk to them about abuse, and also how to report suspected abuse to authorities. Additionally, this training helps to protect adults from unwittingly creating situations where child abuse could occur. The training is free to our community thanks to funding from the Oleson Foundation, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, Schmuckal Family Foundation, Hagerty, Exchange Club of Traverse City, and Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

The program was led by the CAC’s Prevention Coordinator, Jourdan Dean, and Jayne Mohr, Chair of the CAC Board. It began with an anonymous short questionnaire asking each of us to rate our level of comfort and knowledge when it comes to the topic of child sexual abuse. I rated myself as pretty uncomfortable and pretty uninformed. The trainers then request you dedicate the training to a specific child in your life. I picked a friend’s nine-year-old daughter.

As far as the facts, this is the big one I took away: one in 10 children experience sexual abuse, and in nearly all of those situations the victim knows his or her abuser – either a family member or someone the family trusts. Remember the lesson about “stranger danger?”

Knowing that startling statistic, what can I do to help prevent it from happening? The best strategy, according to the trainers, is to minimize the opportunity. Since 80 percent of incidents happen in one-on-one situations, working to reduce or eliminate the possibility of intimate scenarios with adults and even older children is something any of us can try to do. I now know that where I least expect something inappropriate to be happening is where I need to be looking.

The next section of the training focused on how to talk about abuse – everything from using the proper name for all body parts starting when children are babies and toddlers to body safety discussions with young children on through the teenage years. The trainers stressed that offenders often use a child’s lack of knowledge about what is appropriate and what isn’t to keep them silent. It’s so important that kids become the bosses of their bodies.

So, what do I do if I suspect abuse – either by recognizing physical, emotional or behavioral signs – or a child discloses abuse to me? I trust my gut or I believe the child and I report it. Concerned about overreacting, or misunderstanding a situation? I learned I shouldn’t be. You are just making a report. Dial 1.855.444.3911 and a staff member of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will help you in making a report. State what you have observed or suspect, and let the professionals take it from there.

At the end of the session, the trainers had us complete the same questionnaire we did at the beginning. This time around I felt more comfortable and informed, and ready to use my power of prevention.

Contact Jourdan Dean at jdean@traversebaycac.org for more info about upcoming prevention training.


The Power of 10

The Power of 10

It’s the year of 10 for the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center. For 10 years, the Center has been shining a light on child abuse. That’s 10 years of justice, hope and healing for children and their families – for the one in 10 children who are sexually abused across this country.

As we reflect on our first 10 years and look ahead to the next decade, we are building momentum for all the power the number 10 holds. We hope you will use your positive powers by telling 10 people – your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors – about our work to create a world without abuse. If just 10 of our supporters share our important work, then 100 more people could join our cause. Help us magnify our mission!

This month, to kick off our Power of 10 campaign, the CAC is highlighting 10 body safety essentials for children. We hope this will reinforce and support what you are already doing with the children in your lives, or encourage you to take the first step in discussing body safety with young ones in your care.

(Adapted from Body Safety Education by Jayneen Sanders.)

10 Body Safety Essentials

1. Head, shoulders, penis, and toes. Use proper names for all body parts, including genitals, as soon as children start to talk, or even before. It’s best not to use pet or code names because if a child does share information about something that happened, the adult may not understand due to confusion caused by the alternative name.

2. A bubble of personal space. Teach children about boundaries and consent from a young age. Describe a bubble the size of a hula hoop as their personal space. No one has the right to enter the bubble. If someone wants to give a hug or a kiss, he or she should ask first, or the child can tell them to ask. And it’s okay to say “no.” High-fives and fist bumps can be good alternatives.

3. Private parts are private. No one has the right to touch or ask to see a child’s private parts. Additionally, the mouth is considered a private zone since things can be put in a mouth. When children are young and need assistance with bathing always use a washcloth, never a bare hand.

4. Five trusted adults. Have children identify five trusted adults who they can tell if they feel uncomfortable about something, are touched inappropriately or are shown inappropriate images. These should be adults in all the different settings a child experiences regularly. Important: if a child goes to an adult and doesn’t feel heard, it’s important to keep telling until he or she does feel heard.

5. Feeling safe and unsafe. Talk to children about being able to identify what it feels like to be safe as well as unsafe. Questions such as, “How did you feel when you were pushed down the slide and you weren’t ready?” and “How does it feel when we are snuggling together and reading a book?” help children to begin to understand the different feelings that go along with these concepts.

6. Pay attention to warning signs. In an unsafe situation, physical symptoms occur: hearts beat faster, nausea can occur, one might feel like crying. Tell children to pay attention to these early warning signs indicating they may be in an unsafe situation. It doesn’t necessarily mean, of course, that something bad is definitely going to happen.

7. Say no to secrets. Explain to children that while surprises are okay and can be really fun, secrets are not okay and can be dangerous. Tell a child that if someone asks him or her to keep a secret, it’s very important to tell one of those five trusted adults. Secrets are a critical part of a perpetrator’s grooming process.

8. Appropriate touch. Discuss with children when it is appropriate to touch private parts. For example, a doctor may need to for a health issue. It is important to stress that they still have a right to say “no.” They also can ask for a safe person to be with them. With bathing, talk about when it’s appropriate for them to take over that task.

9. Body safety talk is everyday talk. It’s important to talk about body safety in normal, everyday conversations and not make it some big deal or special discussion. For example, when watching TV, you can say, “That didn’t look like Johnny liked it when Grandpa pinched his cheek.” Take everyday things and reinforce safety and boundary issues.

10. Keep the conversation going. As children grow, keep talking. Social media and other places children hang out online bring new safety issues to the forefront. They should understand that safety also has to do with seeing things or being shown images that are not appropriate. Teenagers need to understand why it’s not a good idea to take photos and send them to someone, and that consent doesn’t just involve adults. Consent also applies to other children, including friends. It also doesn’t necessarily mean something bad; it could be that they just don’t know about boundaries.


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.


Shine On!

By SUE BOLDE, Executive Director

A strong, vibrant, and sustainable Child Advocacy Center elevates the quality of safety in a community. It’s very presence serves as a beacon, signaling to all potential perpetrators that, “Abuse is taken seriously here.” To all victims it rings out, “Refuge can be found here.” When a CAC is thriving, growing, and deepening its response to the most vulnerable members of society, previously dismissed potential is awakened. Unimaginable outcomes become reachable. Advancing a world within which all children are safe and thriving is attainable.

The Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center is proud to serve as a regional beacon in the communities of Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, and Wexford Counties and the Sovereign Nation of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. We also provide courtesy services for children who live within our area but may have been harmed elsewhere, as well as for counties that do not have access to a CAC. Since 2010, we have continued to stretch our thinking, our partnerships, and our resources to serve children and families in our region and beyond.

A record-breaking response

More and more children are referred to the TBCAC each year. In 2018, a record-breaking 359 children walked through our doors. In fact, for the past five years, the number of children referred to the Traverse Bay CAC has steadily increased. This may be unsettling and seem indicative of abuse getting worse in our region. Yet, it is more likely a reflection of children being believed and adults knowing how to report suspected abuse to the appropriate agencies. That’s good news!

Children come to us from all over. In 2018, most cases were from Grand Traverse County (26%) reflecting its larger population. Kalkaska and Wexford Counties each referred 14% of cases. Eleven percent of cases were courtesy interviews for children who do not have access to a CAC in other parts of the state. Nine and 10% of cases came from Benzie and Antrim Counties, respectively. Eight percent of all cases were children who live in our service area but may have been harmed elsewhere. Leelanau County, the Grand Traverse Band, and the FBI comprised the remaining 8%.

The pursuit of justice

The multidisciplinary team (MDT) response is a core part of our work. When police or child protective services suspect a child is being abused, the child is brought to the CAC—a safe, child-focused environment—by a caregiver or other “safe” adult. At the CAC, the child tells their story once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that does not not retraumatize the child. Then, a team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health, prosecution, child protective services, victim advocacy, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview.

For the first time in the history of the Traverse Bay CAC, we conducted two forensic interviews simultaneously on five different occasions. Each instance involved a family with siblings that required multiple forensic interviews to ensure that all children in the home environment were safe. We got creative with our facility, our technology, and our staff. We housed two multidisciplinary teams to observe and respond to the children’s disclosures and to formulate action plans. The results were amazing! We reduced the families’ time at the Center by half and their stress levels were more manageable as well. The implications for the future are tremendous in terms of increasing our capacity to serve the region. Plans to brainstorm ways to accommodate more simultaneous interviews in the future are underway.

Helping kids thrive

TBCAC helps kids thrive and communities shine by providing access to evidence-based mental health treatments that reduce the debilitating effects of trauma from abuse. Child abuse can cause lifelong damage to children, families, and communities. But we can prevent these outcomes, especially when children receive effective mental health services and support early on. Our on-site counseling services at the TBCAC help kids go back to being kids.

We are fortunate to have a clinical psychologist and registered play therapist on staff who are trained to administer an array of evidence-based treatments. Additionally, we supervise 3-4 master’s level clinical interns each year who see clients as part of their practicum placement. We offer individual, family, and group therapy, utilizing methods of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, Attachment, Regulation and Competency (ARC) Framework and others. In 2018, our practitioners worked with 233 clients and provided 1,339 sessions—close to a 30% increase over the previous year!

Emerging data is showing a clear advantage to providing in-house services to children. Compared with populations referred to outside therapists, children served onsite at CACs are 7 times more likely to attend the first session. Additionally, more than 75% of onsite clients are likely to remain engaged for 90+ days or 10+ sessions. When mental health services are delivered elsewhere, clients stop treatment, on average, after three or four sessions. Onsite services help kids start and finish treatment.

However, in rural areas the distance to travel for counseling services is a serious limitation. Most clients are able to come to the TBCAC for the forensic interview process, however, residents from outlying counties have a difficult time committing to mental health services even when they are highly desirous of treatment. Most of our current counseling clients reside in Grand Traverse County (59%). We are exploring options for establishing satellite TBCAC counseling services in counties farther from the epicenter of Traverse City as well as strengthening linkage agreements with mental health providers on other counties.

 Where we’re going together

 Our supporters stood up for children this year. With the help of 545 new and returning donors, we were successful in raising $105K at our annual Circle of Friends Luncheon and we are on the verge of meeting our stretch goal of $45,000 for our annual appeal to support programs that pursue justice and help kids heal. In 2019 we’ll continue to ensure access to CAC services around the region, develop more resources for our field, and improve outcomes for children and their families. There’s always time to contribute to the important work we are doing together. A gift from you today could be the one that makes the difference.


About Sue ♥

Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Sue Bolde has a BA in psychology from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MA in art therapy from the University of Illinois. Her professional career includes clinical work with children and teens at the University of Chicago, graduate-level instruction with students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and certification as a Montessori teacher and yoga instructor. She is currently a teacher in training with Google’s Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute as well as a Michigan ACE Initiative trainer.

About Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center ♥

The nationally accredited Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center brings help, hope, and healing to child victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and violence. Our mission is to protect children by supporting multidisciplinary investigations into alleged cases of child abuse by conducting child forensic interviews in an environment that is child-sensitive, supportive and safe. We help heal child victims and their families through our in-house therapeutic services and offer prevention education throughout the region via our Team Zero program. As the Grand Traverse regional response center for the investigation of child abuse, we collaborate with multidisciplinary teams in six counties – Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, and Wexford – in addition to the Sovereign Nation of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Over 1,800 children have been referred to the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center since our founding in 2010.


Doc Talk: Unsafe Behaviors

Dr. Amelia shares insight with parents and care givers about how to have the often difficult conversations with kids about what unsafe behaviors are and what to do if someone tries to get a child or teen to make unsafe choices.

This video accompanies the “Believe Jeeves!” video for kids called, “What does someone who makes unsafe choices LOOK like?”

 

For more, visit the companion video lesson for kids:

Believe Jeeves: What does someone who makes unsafe choices LOOK like?”

Talking Points and Facts About Helping Your Child Understand Who Makes Unsafe Choices… and what they LOOK like


About Dr. Amelia ♥

Amelia Siders, Ph.D., LP, serves as the Clinical Director for TBCAC and has been working in the mental health field since 1994. She received a BA in psychology from the University of Michigan and completed her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology, San Diego. A licensed psychologist, Dr. Amelia specializes in assessment, treatment, and advocacy for children, adolescents, and adults with emotional, behavioral, trauma, and substance use disorders. She has been trained in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and EDMR, as well as several other trauma-informed interventions including Trauma Incident Reduction. In addition to overseeing counseling and therapeutic services at TBCAC, Dr. Amelia serves as an expert in child abuse prevention and intervention and provides testimony in court cases related to areas such as child abuse disclosure rates, false allegations, statistics, trauma symptoms and even grooming and offender behaviors. Additionally, she offers consultation for prosecutorial teams on psychological assessments conducted on both clients and alleged offenders that may be used in court. She and her team of onsite therapists also help prepare both families and children for the trial process by offering support and education about ways to feel more confident and less anxious when providing testimony. Dr. Amelia became passionate about working with children and families who have been affected by abuse when completing her internship at the Center for Child Protection in San Diego, California. Dr. Amelia lives in Traverse City with her canine companion and beloved TBCAC volunteer, Jeeves.

About Jeeves ♥

Jeeves serves as a loyal volunteer sidekick to Dr. Amelia, providing sweet, loving wags to hundreds of child victims and their caregivers for the past several years. A Havanese, Jeeves has hair instead of fur which helps people visiting the Center who may have allergies. As the TBCAC mascot, Jeeves welcomes any and all opportunities to receive belly rubs and hugs!


Rethinking the Holidays

By SUE BOLDE, Executive Director

The holidays can be a time of great anticipation as many of us look forward to seasonal traditions and gathering with relatives and friends. It is also a time when children learn social norms regarding consent, physical affection, body integrity, and gender roles – all of which impact their safety and wellbeing.

Hugs and Kisses

Have you ever heard an adult insist, “Uncle just got here, go give him a big hug!” or “Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss.” If yes, you might want to reconsider how you address this behavior in the future. Telling children that they owe someone a hug just because they haven’t seen a person in a while or because they received a gift can set the stage for risky situations later in life.

Do we want our children to grow into adults who believe that they owe someone physical affection if that someone buys them dinner or does something nice?

The lessons children learn about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected lasts a lifetime. Modeling protective behavior about consent early on can help children to understand their rights when lines are being crossed and that it’s safe to turn to adults for help. This involves giving children the space to decide when and how to show affection, such as “How would you like to say hello to Uncle?” or “You may thank Auntie with a hug, handshake, or smile.”

The Holiday Meal

Have you ever encountered someone who “polices the plates” at a seasonal feast? From grandma commenting on a child going back for seconds to other guests telling a child to eat up so that he or she can look good for the prom, the way families talk about bodies can leave its mark in serious ways.

Do we want our children to grow into adults who believe that their bodies are open source for public comment?

At big holiday dinners, unhealthy focus is sometimes put on how much (or how little) people at the table are eating. If you hear someone critiquing what a child chooses to eat, try saying something that promotes personal privacy in a positive way. “The food is delicious, and we’re in wonderful company. Let’s focus on that and let everyone enjoy the meal in their own way.”

Just Joking

From “Have you heard the one about the girl who…” to “That’s a job for a man!” chatter that was commonplace in years past has no place in a protective society. But when it’s your host or a beloved grandparent making the comment, the healthy response can be less than clear. Even if they mean no harm, it’s important to note that the youngest members of a family are looking to their elders as role models and listening to every single word.

Do we want our children to grow into adults who believe that they must quietly tolerate insensitive or demoralizing comments from those in authority?

If what is said degrades or generalizes someone in a negative manner, use it as an opportunity to model constructive ways of speaking up with confidence. Try something like, “You probably didn’t mean it this way, but that type of [joke/statement/comment] is hurtful. While I’ve got your ear, I heard you got a new job! Tell us about it!”

After-Dinner Chores

Boys and men are equally as capable as girls and women at clearing the table, putting away leftovers, and doing the dishes. Yet in many homes, these more domestic chores are still relegated to female family members while the guys are invited to kick back and relax in front of the TV. Social norms that reinforce inequality in childhood invite injustice later in life.

Do we want our children to grow into adults who believe that someone has the right to overpower them because of their gender?

If you know there’s traditionally been a gender imbalance when it comes to after-dinner cleanup and other chores, consider having a conversation with your immediate family leading up to the get-together. Tell your family that, because you don’t follow gender-based roles at home, you’re going to suggest that everyone—boys and girls, men and women—pitch in this year.

One way to make newly shared responsibilities go a bit more smoothly is to write the names of all guests on slips of paper and put them in a “chore jar.” Then the host can draw names out for specific jobs one-by-one at random. Fair and square.

Creating Culture

If you find yourself saying, “I never thought about that before,” consider yourself in good company. Most of us do not question the social norms that we uphold. They are woven neatly into our day-to-day activities and passed down through the ages. Becoming aware of what motivates our behavior, however, sets us apart as a species and empowers us to actively design culture that supports our highest values. Doing so makes creating a world without abuse possible.

Wishing you a warm and wonderful holiday season!


About Sue ♥

Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Sue Bolde has a BA in psychology from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MA in art therapy from the University of Illinois. Her professional career includes clinical work with children and teens at the University of Chicago, graduate-level instruction with students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and certification as a Montessori teacher and yoga instructor. She is currently a teacher in training with Google’s Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute as well as a Michigan ACE Initiative trainer.

About Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center ♥

The nationally accredited Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center brings help, hope, and healing to child victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and violence. Our mission is to protect children by supporting multidisciplinary investigations into alleged cases of child abuse by conducting child forensic interviews in an environment that is child-sensitive, supportive and safe. We help heal child victims and their families through our in-house therapeutic services and offer prevention education throughout the region via our Team Zero program. As the Grand Traverse regional response center for the investigation of child abuse, we collaborate with multidisciplinary teams in six counties – Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, and Wexford – in addition to the Sovereign Nation of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Nearly 1,800 children have been referred to the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center since our founding in 2010.


“Anna, Age Eight” — The Societal Pandemic of Child Abuse

By SUE BOLDE, Executive Director

The sad truth?

No one wants to talk about child sexual abuse. After all, why would we? It’s an awful, almost incomprehensible topic that we simply can’t imagine a child we love would ever have to endure.

Unfortunately, our society, in general, has virtually become numb to addressing this issue on any substantive scale that would actually move the needle. Over 700,000 children suffer some form of physical or sexual abuse or neglect each year. Additionally, it is estimated that 10% of all children will become victims of sexual abuse before they reach the age of 18.

These staggering statistics here in the US clearly indicate a societal issue of pandemic proportion.

Underscoring these alarming stats is new research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about the lifetime costs of child abuse and maltreatment here in the US. In its abstract released in September (full report to be released in December 2018), the CDC cites significant increases in societal costs resulting from child maltreatment. The methodology used in this research conducted between 2010 and 2015, now includes ancillary, indirect cost estimates, as well as the direct costs of services provided in both the investigation of alleged child abuse cases, as well as the intervention, prosecution and victim support services (including healthcare). Here’s what they found…

• The estimated lifetime cost per-victim of child maltreatment (non-fatal) increased from $210,012 (2010 USD) to $830,928 (2015 USD)… 296% increase!

• The estimated lifetime cost per-victim of child maltreatment (fatal) increased from $1.3 to $16.6 million… 1,100%+ increase!

• The estimated US population economic burden of child maltreatment based on 2015 substantiated incident cases is $428 billion, representing lifetime costs incurred annually.

• The estimated US population economic burden of child maltreatment based on 2015 investigated incident cases is $2 trillion, representing lifetime costs incurred annually… that equates to nearly 10% of our current national debt! 

Touted as, “the nation’s blueprint for ending the epidemic of childhood trauma, a book called,Anna, Age Eight: The Data-Driven Prevention of Child Trauma and Maltreatment, address ways in which we as a society can actually put the brakes on this rampant pandemic. The authors Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD, and Dominic Cappello, believe so strongly in making this information available that they offer their guide as a free downloadable pdf.

The book shares several stories of child abuse and trauma, including Anna’s story…

“…It was not so for Anna. In her eight years, she had racked up just as many episodes in the custody of her state’s child welfare system. Returned again to her very troubled mother, Cassandra, she celebrated a birthday with a few small toys and, we can only hope, some quantity of good cheer. If she did so, it would have been about the last high point she would ever know. A few days later, Cassandra and her boyfriend beat Anna to death in a drug-fueled, mental illness-influenced rage.”

Anna’s death was completely avoidable had simple technology been utilized to help child protection professionals collaborate and recognize the countless red flags in Anna’s short life. This book promotes the importance of utilizing technology to facilitate information sharing among those who can help step-in and protect vulnerable children.

The essential need to protect children and help ensure emotionally and physically healthy childhoods can no longer be dismissed or “left to someone else.” Need data? The CDC is offering it up to us in the form of a HUGE societal economic burden. But it just makes good sense… raising children in healthy, secure environments teaches them to live healthy, safe lives… and in turn, pass those traits on to their own children and families. The book eloquently and succinctly captures this concept…

“Emotionally healthy people who are treated well throughout life tend to treat others well, in an emotionally healthy way, but the opposite is also true. Whatever happened to those kids that we try not to think about – whenever it happened – it will brush off with every human interaction, and then some little piece of it will have happened to you, and to all of us.”

We have the power to stop this pandemic… let’s get to work.


About Sue ♥

Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Sue Bolde has a BA in psychology from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MA in art therapy from the University of Illinois. Her professional career includes clinical work with children and teens at the University of Chicago, graduate-level instruction with students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and certification as a Montessori teacher and yoga instructor. She is currently a teacher in training with Google’s Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute as well as a Michigan ACE Initiative trainer.

About Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center ♥

The nationally accredited Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center brings help, hope, and healing to child victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and violence. Our mission is to protect children by supporting multidisciplinary investigations into alleged cases of child abuse by conducting child forensic interviews in an environment that is child-sensitive, supportive and safe. We help heal child victims and their families through our in-house therapeutic services and offer prevention education throughout the region via our Team Zero program. As the Grand Traverse regional response center for the investigation of child abuse, we collaborate with multidisciplinary teams in six counties – Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, and Wexford – in addition to the Sovereign Nation of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. More than 1,700 children have been referred to the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center since our founding in 2010.