Child advocacy center shares how Greek Week will benefit the organization
One in 10 children will suffer childhood sexual abuse before the age of 18.
Half of the families in Isabella County lack the resources to meet basic needs, with 25 percent in poverty and another 25 percent just above the poverty line.
Kim Seidel, executive director of the Isabella Child Advocacy Center and Tom Olver, president and CEO of United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties, shared these facts with the Greek Community at 7:30 p.m. on April 3. The Isabella Country Child Advocacy Center is one of the philanthropies along with the Kristy Malter Memorial Fund benefiting from Central Michigan University’s 2017 annual Greek Week.
Over 1,200 CMU Greek members gathered in Plachta Auditorium to listen to guest speakers from the Isabella County Child Advocacy Center and United Way talk about their effort to eliminate child sexual and physical abuse and provide services and resources for all children.
“(United Way’s) job is to provide resources, create awareness and improve the quality of life for children.” Olver said. “It’s all about helping children reach their greatest potential.That is why we are here tonight to support the phenomenal work being done by the ICCAC”
The funds raised during Greek Week will be used to help the advocacy center continue to offer forensic interviews, counseling supports and resources to child sexual abuse survivors. They will also be working to expand their prevention education services in Isabella County.
“Greeks are some of the most passionate and caring individuals.” Olver said. “No matter the letter, we are all in this together.”
Seidel shared her experiences working at the organization. She explained that the center follows a national model, National Children's Alliance, which aims to reduce the number of times that a child is interviewed about their experience. On average, children are asked share their stories 15 times during abuse investigations --- which the advocacy center does not adhered to.
“The idea is that at our center is a safe place, where the child is interviewed one time, by one person, so they are not overwhelmed or scared,” she said.
It takes most survivors an average of 21 years after abuse occurred, to feel comfortable talking about their situation, Seidel said.
“Children who suffer from sexual abuse often feel invisible.” she said.
A video was shown to the audience to emphasize children’s invisibility. It described how children feel ignored by everyone except their abusers — the one person they wish couldn’t see them.
After the video, Greek members in the audience reacted strongly, yelling phrases such as “disgusted,” "scared", “angry,” and “helpless.”
“This week (the Greek community is) going to be working to give these children a voice,” Seidel said. “You are all going to be working to support us and we are preparing to empower over 1,000 kids next year in our community. You will help to shed light where there is darkness”.
With the money Greek Week will donate, Seidel explained, a prevention program for first grade students will be implemented in the schools that will stress how they are the boss of their bodies. The program will help children realize they have a voice and they can use it whenever they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Seidel urged it is important for everyone to be aware of changes in a child's behavior.
"It is important to recognize that children do not act out for no reason," she said.
Reaching out is key if a child is suspected to be troubled. Seidel said people should never be afraid to ask them “Are you okay?" and "Is someone hurting you?"
“It can help the child to feel free to share what’s going on. You’d be surprised how many children simply aren’t asked that question,” she said.
Andrea Mills, the Forensic Interviewer at the advocacy center, also spoke to the crowd about her work with the organization.
“So far this year, I’ve conducted 49 interviews,” Mills said, and stressed that this is a startling number.
Chicago freshman Olivia Kotowski, a member of Phi Mu, said hearing from the speakers was an emotional, moving experience.
“I think it’s really good that this issue is being taken seriously,” Kotowsksi said. “It has a more lasting effect on people.”