Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New centre built to help young victims of violence

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A new victims' centre that opened downtown Wednesday will try to minimize trauma for kids hurt by violence as they recount their stories.

The Winnipeg Children's Advocacy Centre (CAC) is set to help about 40 children and teens in its first year by creating a hub where police officers and social service workers will work.

CAC executive director Cheryl Martinez said the centre at 225 Portage Ave. will help children and teenagers up to 17 years old.

It's designed to put children and their families at ease during a difficult process, which is why it has features such as plush rugs, quilts on the walls and inspirational Dr. Seuss quotes on bathroom walls.

"The purpose of the centre is to be a one-stop shop for child victims and their families, to provide a wraparound service approach," said Martinez, who has worked in child protection for 28 years.

She said that means one interview of a child, versus multiple interviews by police and then by social service workers. Telling a story multiple times can traumatize children, she said.

The centre's core staff will be Martinez and an executive assistant, plus two forensic interviewers who will speak to kids to get their statements. Those interviews will be recorded in a room in the centre that has a plush rug, comfortable couch and soft lighting to create a calming space.

There are hidden cameras and microphones in the interview room, and police and social service workers in nearby areas can see and listen to what happens inside the room.

The centre's lobby was crammed with politicians Monday, including federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, provincial Family Services Minister Jennifer Howard,and provincial Justice Minister Andrew Swan, to mark the opening.

The centre will operate on more than $500,000 in federal and provincial funding each year, Martinez said.

"What this centre is going to do for children who have faced the horror and the trauma of abuse is going to be not only critical in their own recovery in their own lives, but we know centres like this in other jurisdictions, they also help us protect kids because they help us put abusers in jail.

"They help us have successful prosecutions because there's better collection of evidence," Howard said.

People don't directly refer themselves to the centre, but will be sent there by police, medical officials or Child and Family Services.

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 24, 2013 B2

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