New center for child sexual abuse victims opens

Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County
The new Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County in Grand Rapids. (Jan. 18, 2018)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County has a new home.

The ribbon was cut on the nonprofit’s new building at 2855 Michigan St. NE in Grand Rapids Thursday afternoon.

Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County
Photo: The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County in Grand Rapids. (Jan. 18, 2018)

Formerly known as the Children’s Assessment Center, the Children’s Advocacy Center answers the call to address child sexual abuse in West Michigan.

“In our old building, it was so small that kids had to wait up to three months to get into treatment,” Susan Shannon, the executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center, said.

Law enforcement, medical professionals and Children’s Protective Services are together so children can access those services under one roof.

“Twenty-five years ago we decided, the community decided, to build a multidisciplinary approach to investigating and treating children who are sexually abused. Before, a child had to go eight or nine different places, retell the story at the emergency room, the police department, they now come to one place,” Shannon said.

Numbers from darknesstolight.org show one in seven girls is sexually abused. One in 25 boys is sexually abused. One in nine children over the age of 10 is solicited sexually online.

The Children’s Advocacy Center reports more than 1,000 cases of suspected child sexual abuse annually in Kent County. It’s estimated that 66 percent of childhood sexual abuse is never reported or treated.

“We need to believe our children, number one,” Shannon said. “But so many still, because they’re threatened, because this is not something you talk about, because 99 percent of their abusers are somebody they know, often a family member, they don’t disclose and if they don’t get into treatment, this is going to cause lifelong problems. It’s trauma.”