WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) today praised the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan passage of “The Victims of Child Abuse Act” (VOCAA), a bill he co-sponsored with U.S. Senator Chris Coons (Del.), who co-chairs the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus. The bill provides funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers that serve child victims of violent crimes and help law enforcement hold perpetrators accountable.
“There are 22 Children’s Advocacy Centers funded by public-private partnerships in Missouri that serve around 7,000 of our state’s most vulnerable children each year by coordinating the investigation, treatment, and prosecution of child abuse cases,” Blunt said. “I’m pleased to see my colleagues support this bill so we can continue to provide a safe haven for our children and help law enforcement hold perpetrators accountable for their actions in Missouri and nationwide.”
“We have a shared responsibility to protect our children from violence and abuse,” Coons said. “Though we can’t prevent every tragedy, we can make sure that children and families have the resources they need to heal and obtain justice. Children’s Advocacy Centers bring all of these resources together under one roof for one mission – to serve justice for children. Demand for these services has only grown since the Victims of Child Abuse Act was enacted more than two decades ago. Children’s Advocacy Centers served close to 300,000 children last year and 1,000 communities still have no access to a center when a child is the victim of a serious crime. Reauthorization of this vital program is long overdue, and I’m grateful to my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee for joining me to move this bill forward.”
Background on the Bill:
Children’s Advocacy Centers employ a multi-disciplinary team of trained professionals to conduct forensic interviews of children who have been victims of abuse. These interviews are designed to be admissible in court, preventing children from being re-traumatized by having to tell their stories multiple times.
The VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2013 would increase authorization levels for Children’s Advocacy Centers for the first time since the VOCAA was enacted in 1990. Acknowledging current fiscal constraints, this moderate increase, from $20 million to $22.5 million, is still below an amount that would keep pace with inflation and population growth. The reauthorization would also strengthen the programs through enhanced accountability provisions, non-profit requirements and limitations on conference expenditures.
Vince Hillyer, President and CEO, Great Circle, Columbia, Mo.: “We support this act as we are accountable for high standards and best practices to provide services that best meet the needs of children who are victims of child abuse. As Great Circle moves towards a trauma-informed practice, the Child Advocacy Centers are the first step in helping addressing the tremendous trauma that children suffer when they are victims of sexual abuse. The work that the Child Advocacy Centers provide establish the foundation for the investigation of the trauma at one site, establishes findings of the victim’s investigation and networks with the next step in healing, to agencies like Great Circle.”
Jan Stock, Executive Director, Rainbow House Child Advocacy Center, Columbia, Mo.: “This Act has provided a voice for abused children across our nation. Acknowledgement of abuses against children has prompted research on the impact of abuse, treatment modalities have been developed that most effectively deal with the trauma, prevention strategies continue to evolve, and there is now more awareness of the signs and symptoms so that entire communities are able to do their part.”
Joyce Estes, Executive Director, Northwest Missouri Children's Advocacy Center: “As the Executive Director of the Children's Advocacy Center in St. Joseph, I can testify as to how important this is. Every year we see more and more children here for forensic interviews and for trauma focused therapy for child victims of sexual abuse. Any increase in funding will be appreciated.”
Kim Inman Williams, MA Executive Director Beacon Health Center/ SEMO Network Against Sexual Violence: “In 2012, Beacon/NASV served approximately 700 children through sexual/physical assault exams, forensic interviews, victim advocacy, mental health counseling and case management. Funding through our VOCA grant each year is imperative for the continuation of such programs in the 10 county areas served by our three locations. These services help to assure timely intervention in an affordable and accessible manner. As an agency and as individuals supporting the mission of protecting the children of Missouri, we fully support [Senator Blunt’s] efforts at gaining reauthorization of the Victims of Child Abuse Act.”
Barbara Brown-Johnson, Executive Director, Child Advocacy Center, Inc., Springfield, Mo.: “As an agency whose only client is abused children, we are keenly aware of the need for the Victim of Child Abuse Act funds…. The Department of Justice, as well as others, has invested in evaluation research on the impact of this CAC model, and the findings have been consistent – improved services for children while eliminating unnecessary duplication of services, proof that this public-private partnership works.”
Eric Zahnd, Platte County, Mo. Prosecuting Attorney: “In my opinion, Child Advocacy Centers are among the most important organizations serving to protect children. My office works with our local CAC on a regular basis. Without their expertise in cases we prosecute, many child predators would not be behind bars today. It would be extremely beneficial to the children of our nation for Senator Blunt to reauthorize the act.”
Mark Richardson, Cole County, Mo. Prosecuting Attorney: “[Child Advocacy Centers’] interviews of child victims conducted by trained forensic interviewers have made it much easier for law enforcement investigators, juries and judges to find the truth in child assault and sexual assault cases. As a result, there is a higher rate of conviction and sentences of imprisonment for the most vile criminals who prey on our most defenseless citizens – our children.”
Christopher K. Limbaugh, Cape Girardeau County, Mo. Prosecuting Attorney: “Child victims are the most vulnerable of the population. While many victims of crime are subject to traumatic offenses, children suffer more so given that the offenses committed against them occur during the formative years of their lives. The programs supported by the Victims of Child Abuse Reauthorization Act are a vital tool in the investigation of offenses against children and essential to the successful prosecution of those perpetrators. The Reauthorization of this Act, sponsored by Senator Blunt, will continue to provide law enforcement personnel and child advocates resources to put those who prey on children in prison and off Missouri streets.”
Andy Anderson, Boone County, Mo. Sheriff's Dept. Cyber Crimes Task Force Coordinator: “Child advocacy centers in Missouri and around the country must be funded to maintain the professional standard we now enjoy. We owe it to the children and families who have become victims of such horrific crimes to make the investigative process professional and compassionate as possible. I have been investigating crimes against children for 26 years so I started way before child advocacy centers were available. I understand the difficulties victims faced during investigations before they were established. We have come too far to take a backward step now. Child advocacy centers help investigators conduct a better investigation and serve the children well by reducing the number of their interviews and provide them a safe child friendly environment where they can get through a very difficult task.”
John Jordan, Sheriff, Cape Girardeau County, Mo.: “I fully support Senator Blunt in his effort to secure funding in the Victims of Child Abuse Reauthorization Act of 2013. This is a noble and very much needed program that has and will continue to protect countless children who are victims of sexual and physical abuse. Being able to have safe environments for children who have been victimized, is paramount to their future physical and mental healing. I commend Senator Blunt for his support of this important legislation.”
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