Stop sexual abuse
Chaucie’s place transistions to education for Carmel
During the past two years, local child advocacy center Chaucie’s Place has shifted its focus from trauma minimization to sexual abuse and youth suicide prevention. The organization recently launched its latest program, Lifelines, aimed at preventing youth suicide.
For more than a decade, Chaucie’s Place has stood up for child victims of sexual abuse throughout Carmel and Hamilton County. Chaucie’s Place was a child advocacy center specializing in forensic interviews for victims of sexual abuse, acting as a hub for law enforcement, prosecution and child protective services for the first 10 years of its existence. Since 2010, Chaucie’s Place has refocused its efforts on community and school prevention programs aimed at stopping abuse and suicide before they happen.
The change came after a rift between old leadership of Chaucie’s Place and law enforcement officials eventually led to the creation of a second, competing child advocacy center.
“(That was) a very difficult time for this community,” said Toby Stark, Chaucie’s Place’s executive director. “We shifted our focus to prevention, rather than reacting to abuse when it takes place. Reacting is so important but at the end of the day, if you can prevent harm from coming to our children in the first place, there is no greater calling.”
Between 2001 and 2010, Chaucie’s Place conducted more than 2,600 interviews with sexual abuse victims. According to Stark, the organization still conducts interviews when asked and now averages around 10 per year.
Body Safety,Chaucie’s Place’s first program, has been a part of the organization since 2001and is aimed at young children in kindergarten, second and fourth grade.
“The program recognizes good touches from bad touches,” said Julie Williams, counselor at Noblesville’s White River Elementary. “The program’s benefits range from prevention all the way to letting the children be heard. It empowers them to have control over their own bodies.”
Carmel Clay Schools was the first local school to implement the program and has worked with Chaucie’s Place for more than a decade.
Body Safety is Chaucie’s Place’s most successful program and has been implemented in all Hamilton County school districts, even reaching into Boone and Marion counties in recent years.
In 2010, Chaucie’s Place staff became authorized to train parents and any adult working with children as part of Stewards of Children, a national child sexual abuse prevention program designed to educate adults about how to prevent, recognize and react appropriately to child sexual abuse.
“The Stewards of Children training deals with very upsetting content, and I think it can be especially difficult for those of us that care so deeply about the well-being of children,” said Jennifer Brown, assistant manager of Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation’s Extended School Enrichment. “(Our staff members were) a bit shell shocked to learn how pervasive this issue really is. Many have said that they will use this information in their jobs to watch the children more closely for any signs of abuse. They also feel much more confident about reporting any suspicions they might have.”
Each month, Chaucie’s Place holds a Stewards of Children event in a different Hamilton County city. Many school districts and even some local corporations have put their staff and administration through the program.
“It was one of the best trainings I have ever attended. So many times, you can go through a training and leave with a few new ideas, but no real plan of action. This is a training that motivates you to take action afterwards,” Brown said.
Earlier this year, Chaucie’s Place launched its latest program, Lifelines. This youth suicide prevention program targets the entire school community, not just the students. Through four different components, the program targets administration, school faculty and staff, parents and students in eighth, ninth, and tenth grade.
Last week, Westfield Washington Schools announced that it would be adding Lifelines to its curriculum in the future. In February, Sheridan Community Schools became the first local school district to implement Lifelines.
Chaucie’s Place relies heavily on its volunteers. With only two full-time and two part-time staff members, it simply would not be possible for Chaucie’s Place to reach as many students throughout Carmel and the county as it does without a large group of community volunteers.
One of those volunteers, Jenn Funk, has been guiding Body Safety sessions on her own and has seen the effects on herself, the students and even her own children.
“As a volunteer, it’s been very eye-opening. Things you assume that children would know, you are surprised to find out that if they aren’t told or taught, it’s not intuitive,” said Funk, a Fishers resident.
Chaucie’s Place has implemented its Body Safety program in schools throughout the county and expects to reach as many as 10,000 students this year.
Beyond this month’s annual breakfast event, Stark is looking to continue to grow Lifelines and the other prevention programs throughout the surrounding communities.
On April 25, Carmel-based NextGear Capitol will be building a shed at Chaucie’s Place as part of Companies with a Mission. By completing the project, NextGear will be allowed to apply for a grant on behalf of Chaucie’s Place, a grant that could fund the construction and renovation of a training room at the organization’s existing facility. Grants range from $2,000 to $15,000. Stark estimates the training room will cost about $25,000 overall.
Chaucie’s Place will be holding its annual Beach Bash fundraising event in October. With admission of $75 per person, Stark is expecting to see more than 250 people at this year’s event which will feature a luau theme.
For more information on Chaucie’s Place and what is being done to prevent child sexual abuse and youth suicide through Hamilton and Boone counties, visit www.chauciesplace.org.