Baby & Beyond: Center aids and protects abused children - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Baby & Beyond: Center aids and protects abused children

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

The latest statistics show one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before age 18.

A sad and sobering number, but workers at Allen Child Protection Center are helping victims of physical and sexual abuse, and they tell us how we can help prevent more children from the same trauma.

Director Nina Thomas of the ACPC helps the most vulnerable among us feel safe.

Located in Cedar Falls, the ACPC opened nearly a year and a half ago to aid and protect abused children and build a legal case against their abusers.

"Black Hawk County has high rates of physical and sexual abuse," State representative Bob Kressig said.

Kressig helped secure state money to start the Child Protection Center. It serves 27 counties in northeast Iowa and is the 5th such center in the state.

"The idea that a child is sexually or physically abused is appalling to me. And to many people. And the worst thing I think is that child lives in that environment and not able to get any help," he said.

Before Allen Child Protection Center, many abuse victims and their families had to drive hours to St. Luke's Child Protection Center in Cedar Rapids for help, and some received no help at all.

Nurse practitioner Lexa Starbeck carefully examines each child from head to toe.  A $23,000 donated culpascope allows her to document magnified images of the body without being intrusive.

Highly-trained forensic interviewers talk with the children. 
With state of the art microphones and cameras, law enforcement and Department of Human Services workers sit in this next room and watch.

Since its beginning in May 2010, ACPC has interviewed nearly 250 children, which has led to the arrest of 40 people.

"That's our proudest number," Thomas said.

Officials say the traditional teaching of "stranger danger" is good, but most abusers already know their victims. Therefore it is essential that parents talk with their children about abuse, and help children feel comfortable talking about their bodies.

That way, the most vulnerable will not only feel safe here, but safe at home and play as well.

Black Hawk County ranks 4th highest in the state in cases of child abuse.   Child advocates say most cases of abuse go unreported.

If you suspect child abuse, experts say you should call this child abuse hotline no matter what.  The number is 1-800-362-2178 it's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Allen Child Protection Center relies mostly on grants and donations.  If you would like to donate or know more, call (319) 277-7463, or visit their website by clicking here.

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