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A Safe Path for Victims of Child Abuse

By S. Mathur

Child abuse is a distressingly common problem, with consequences that are felt for years and across generations. SafePath Children's Advocacy Center recognizes that child abuse is a community problem, and offers an integrated approach to the problems of investigation, support and rehabilitation, which are experienced by victims as a hostile environment.

For children caught up in the system, dealing with child protection, law enforcement, legal, medical, and mental health professionals only adds to the trauma they have suffered. The old system has been described as adult-oriented, fragmentary and insensitive.

SafePath Children's Advocacy Center adopts a very different approach. It offers a single, supportive and caring environment "that is not only child friendly, but takes into consideration the developmental levels of children," says Community and Marketing Coordinator Hana Laine.

"Our entire center is focused on the creation of an environment that makes children feel safe and secure. From our front entrance garden that is very child friendly and welcoming to our age appropriate reading materials, movies, and activities and child size furniture; we focus on the children we serve. SafePath's warm and professional staff, greet the children, supervise them, and help them through the system from beginning to end; ensuring they have a hand to hold. All of our services are free of charge to any child and family in need."

SafePath offers a single, friendly environment in which all legal, medical and social work tasks can be carried out, minimizing the trauma in the victims' lives. Two upcoming events underline the importance of community support for their work: the 2016 Hearing Children's Voices Gala will take place on March 5, 2016 at the Cobb Galleria Centre, when the the Hearing Children's Voices Award will be presented to to a community member who has served as a tireless advocate for SafePath. And the Good Eatin' Great Cause Culinary Tour has become one of premier events in the culinary world of metro Atlanta, attracting 700 guests and more than 25 celebrity chefs.

Laine says that she is inspired to work with children because they are so resilient "...and continue to care and love despite their challenges when abused." One of the success stories at SafePath is an 11year old girl who was sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend. Her testimony makes it clear that SafePath provides essential emotional support to victims.

"I was scared and uncomfortable going to a place that I've never gone to before. The thing that frightened me the most was having to tell someone that I don't know about what happened. When I got there, I was greeted by a nice lady at the front desk. She told me I could sit down and watch TV. I thought to myself, 'This isn't so bad.' SafePath is a friendly environment. Unfortunately, I only have one more month here. But I can look back on all the great things I did to benefit me. From this experience, I've learned lots and from this experience I've made new friends. This will be looked back on as an opportunity for me and my family. This place will always be close to my heart and it will always stay there."

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