“It’s not something that people want to talk about,” Samantha Bouressa, Program Supervisor at the Sexual Assault Center told Local 5 Monday afternoon as 150 pinwheels were set up.
Each pinwheel in the lawn of the Willow Tree Cornerstone Child Advocacy Center represents an interview conducted at the center in 2019 so far.
Pinwheels are a national symbol of an abuse-free childhood.
“Anytime that there’s a suspected child abuse, they bring the child here and interview them in a way that doesn’t revictimize that child,” Bouressa said.
Kristie Sickel, a Child Forensic Interviewer told Local 5 that the interviews are meant to take the burden off of the victim.
“Talk to the child one on one while the investigative team observes from another room, so instead of a child having to talk to many different people or having to go to many different places to talk about what happened to them, they come to Willow Tree, talk to one person in one place,” she explained.
It’s a process that area law enforcement says benefits all parties involved.
“It allows for us to get the information in a way that allows it to be used in court,” Brown County Sheriff Todd Delain said, “in a way that doesn’t retraumatize the child.”
In 2018, those interviews hit record numbers.
Willow Tree served 763 children last year, including 407 cases of alleged child sexual abuse and 133 cases of alleged physical abuse, and conducted 655 child forensic interviews.
Meanwhile, the Sexual Assault Center served 1,075 alleged victims of sexual assault, including 910 in Brown County and 471 under the age of 18.
At Healthy Families, where a display of 144 additional pinwheels is on display,150 families were served.
Officials say the growing numbers do not necessarily indicate higher rates of abuse, but awareness.
“Children are made aware of the fact that they can report the abuse to somebody they trust,” Sheriff Delain said, “like a teacher, another family member, a friend, a neighbor, that these things are occurring so that they can be investigated.”
To continue to raise awareness, two additional events are planned for the month of April:
- April 13 10-11:30 a.m. at the YWCA in Green Bay: Parents and children age 3-5 are invited to learn ways to help prevent child abuse at “Kids Can Be Safe.”
- April 24 6:00 p.m. at the Meyer Theater: “Unheard Voices: Let’s Listen,” sharing real stories about real people impacted by sexual assault.
For more information on these events or any of the organizations mentioned in this article, click here.