BELLEFONTE — Ever since officially opening its doors in February, the Centre County Children’s Advocacy Center in Bellefonte has been a busy place.
Executive Director Kristina Taylor-Porter said the center has seen about 25 referrals for forensic interviews and medical exams and also has been focusing time on case reviews.
The CAC is designed to create a child-friendly environment where abused or neglected children can talk to investigators, receive medical and psychological treatment and start the healing process — all in one place.
“Our opening day, we had referrals already to us,” Taylor-Porter said. “It’s a recognized need, not only in Centre County, but also within in the region.”
The Centre County Board of Commissioners recognized some of that work at its meeting Tuesday before passing a resolution to declare April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. The board also passed a resolution proclaiming April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
April will be a chance for people to learn more about helping to stop the physical and sexual abuse of children, said county Children and Youth Services liaison Mary Ann Zimmerman. She is hosting a free mandatory reporter training from 9 a.m. to noon April 8 at Calvary Baptist Church in State College.
One the most important parts of the CAC is its partnership with Mount Nittany Health, Taylor-Porter said. That clinic, being right next to the center, helps children get medical attention right away.
Board Chairman Steve Dershem said the facility will continue to be an important part of the community.
“That’s a really fantastic facility you have down there, and certainly it will be an asset,” he said.
Jody Althouse, of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, also attended the meeting to shine additional light on the issue of sexual assault locally and across the nation.
The national effort is promoting the slogan to “Only do it with consent” to maintain a safe sexual environment for everyone, she said, adding that silence from someone heavily under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not count as consent.
Ultimately, when it comes to sexual assault, Althouse said the only prevention measure is to teach people not to do it.
“The only way to stop rape is to stop rapists from raping,” she said.
Althouse is hoping this month will draw more attention to the issue that is widely believed to be the most underreported crime in the nation.
Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.