Child abuse is a crime that can linger for years and decades after it occurs.
Organizations here have worked to create a center to make it easier for suspected abused children to talk to investigators.
Being abused is bad enough when you're a child, but reliving it can be just as difficult when telling that story to unfamiliar adults.
On top of that, children can become easily scared around police, making the job of telling what happened hard of children and gathering information difficult for authorities.
“You want to reduce trauma in children,” says Marnie Hersrud of the Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin. “You have to recognize that they've already been significantly traumatized and anything in this process of investigation to help a child feels safe is very important.
Right now, an abused child may have to tell their stories repeatedly to different people, but now they only have to tell it once.
“There will be a one way mirror where a multi-disciplinary team can watch the interviewer,” says Hersrud. “They'll be able to ask questions of the interviewer to make sure that everything is covered during that interview and the whole idea is to make sure children are interviewed only once.”
All of this will take place at the Child Advocacy Center located at UW-Eau Claire's College of Nursing.
“It's an area where it's away from the health care setting, a criminal justice setting away from the social service setting,” says Elaine Wendt, Dean of the College of Nursing, “so it's kind of a neutral environment.”
Right now, the rooms aren't much to look at but by fall, it will be transformed into a more child-friendly area.
“This is a huge issue for this area. It's probably one of the most important things that have happened in the area of child abuse and neglect in a long time,” says Hersrud.
From there, the center will allow investigators to proceed in proper procedures, all efforts to make it for kids to tell their story of abuse.
In Eau Claire County, the state reports more than 400 children were abused or neglected in 2004.