Molly Louison, program director of Child Advocacy Center  of York County, sits in the room where victims of child sexual assault are interviewed as part of the process of moving forward to prosecution of the alleged perpetrator. The program opened two months ago, and already, law enforcement has referred 41 cases  to the agency, located at York County Court House in Alfred.  The agency marked its opening  with a reception on Tuesday. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Molly Louison, program director of Child Advocacy Center of York County, sits in the room where victims of child sexual assault are interviewed as part of the process of moving forward to prosecution of the alleged perpetrator. The program opened two months ago, and already, law enforcement has referred 41 cases to the agency, located at York County Court House in Alfred. The agency marked its opening with a reception on Tuesday. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

ALFRED — Until lately, a youngster who reported being sexually abused was interviewed several times — first by a law enforcement officer, then a district attorney, the state health and human services folks, and others as prosecutors prepared to bring the perpetrator to trial.

Child advocates say that experience — having to tell their story multiple times — is difficult. Each time they had to tell someone else what happened to them, they were reliving their trauma.

Now, the youngster has to tell their story just once, to a trained forensic interviewer who records the conversation. The tape is available only to those agencies who need it.

The Children’s Advocacy Center of York County has been in the works for some time. It opened informally a couple of months ago, and cut the ribbon on the facility, located at York County Court House, on Tuesday. Prosecutors, law enforcement, child advocacy workers, representatives of county government and others were on hand to mark the occasion.

“Every child who comes to the Child Advocacy Center has been hurt,” said York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery. “Everyone (involved) is interested in helping put their lives back together.”

And, said Slattery, a tape of a forensic interview, where a prosecutor hears the child telling what transpired, makes more of an impression than reading a police report ever could.

The Children’s Advocacy Center of York County is a program of Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine. Partners include several police agencies; York County government, which provided the space at no cost; the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and others.

There has been a Child Advocacy Center in Lewiston for a decade, for the past four years in Waterville and in Cumberland County for more than a year. State law now mandates there be a Child Advocacy Center in all state public health districts,

In addition to forensic interviews,  the center provides coordinated meetings with investigators, staff, children and their families; medical services by a board-certified pediatrician; referrals for services like mental health providers, victim’s rights, legal aid, domestic violence support and more. As well, there are follow-up visits by a family advocate.

“We follow survivors as long as they need us,” said SARSSM Executive Director Melanie Sachs.

Kennebunk Police Detective Steve Borst had high praise for the team in Alfred, including the program director, Molly Louison. 

“With our first case, the family said ‘no, you’re not going to talk to my kid about this,’” said Borst. He said they changed their mind after Borst took them to meet Louison.

“All the way around, it was a healing process for the family,” said Borst.

York County Assistant Director Attorney Shira Burns, a member of the board of directors of the agency, estimated the York County center will see about 250 young people a year.

In two months, 41 children have been referred, and 39 interviews completed. That is not pent-up demand, said Burns, because both Cumberland County and nearby New Hampshire authorities helped out with child advocacy services before the York County agency opened. 

“(It is) a safe place for a child and their family outside the traditional law enforcement setting,” said York County Commission cChairman Sallie Chandler.

“We see sadness, grief and trauma and the first glimpses of hope and healing,”  said Louison 

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]


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