TOWANDA, BRADFORD COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) It’s a growing problem in our area — physical and sexual child abuse.
An issue that local experts say is rampant in our rural Pennsylvania communities.
Reporter Hayden Ristevski tells us more about this community problem and how a child advocacy center in Bradford County is trying to help.
“She didn’t realize what was being done to her, she just knew that she never wanted it to happen again.”>
It’s been almost 3 years since a Bradford county mother, who didn’t want to be identified in order to protect her children, came to the heartbreaking realization that her five-year-old daughter was being abused by a close family member.
“I was devastated because i was hoping it wasn’t true. I was hoping there was confusion or a mix up.”
It wasn’t confusion, the abuse happened.
And cases like this are becoming increasingly common in Bradford County.
In fact, the county has one of the highest rates of substantiated child abuse in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Dave Pelachick is a forensic investigator: “It’s horrible to know how rampant things are in these rural areas. It really is disturbing.”
In 2014, roughly four out of every 1000 children in Bradford county were abused.
Only two counties had higher rates.
Enter the children’s house, a nationally accredited child advocacy center that works to help victims of child abuse cope with their trauma – starting with reporting the incident.
Interview rooms give the children the opportunity to talk about their traumatic experiences in a safe, comfortable place. But the technology used in these rooms gives law enforcement the opportunity to collect evidence in real time that can be used in these cases going forward.”
Cpl. Douglas Smith, of the Towanda State Police Criminal investigations team: “The main focus of the house is to allow the victim to only be interviewed one time, then all the other participating agencies will get a copy of the interview.”
“And if we can do that, that will reduce the trauma dramatically to the child in event there was something bad that happened to the child.” Added Pelachick.
“My daughter having a safe environment to do an interview that she was so comfortable in disclosing the truth, gave law enforcement what they needed to go forward with their investigation.” Our interview said.
In this case that meant a guilty plea and a conviction.
But to really tackle this problem on a larger scale, and stop victims from following similar patterns of abuse, experts say this must be seen as a community issue.
And the children’s house is working to raise awareness.
Edith Jordan, is the Executive Director of The Children’s House she told us “We need to make sure that we are addressing this and that these kids are going to get the help and services that they need so that we can bring that rate down. We need to address that problem here in the county.”
The children’s house hopes to open a satellite location in Tioga county in the near future.
The abuse rate there in 2014 was lower than Bradford County’s, and falls more in line with the average rate for the rest of the counties across the commonwealth.