April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Kaelyn Souyra, Contributing Writer

There are over 30 Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC) here in Michigan. Whether or not you have experienced the work of this organization firsthand, there is no doubt about the amazing things they do for our children and the community. The CAC aims to prevent and treat victims of child sexual abuse. This year, Ottawa County’s Children’s Advocacy Center has announced its second year of the Youth Advocacy Team (YAT); the YAT is a group of high school students at the CAC who are interested in bringing awareness to child abuse and serving their community.

Cara Mazure, Community Outreach Coordinator, and Adrienne Bailey, Clinical Services Manager, are two of the adult voices in the YAT who played a big role in guiding this group of teens and demonstrating their passion for the CAC. This year, Ottawa County’s YAT created a video to provide awareness for child sexual abuse by describing the CAC’s services and ways to get help.

“The biggest thing that stood out to me was how this group wanted to make a tangible difference in the community,” said Bailey. Even though both YAT groups had the same aim to express their passions for the CAC’s work, there were several differences that the adult leaders saw in this year’s team. Mazure noticed that the 2022 team is full of passion and “were willing to take risks by voicing their ideas and working with their team members to accomplish a common goal.” She added that it was also beneficial that the five returning team members made a great impact with their previous experience in the YAT.

Comparing the goals for the YAT this year and the new goals for next year, CAC board members such as Mazure value the confidence and contribution of the high school team members. “I hoped for the YAT to become more permanently rooted in into the CAC as a necessary and important part of the agency’s ongoing outreach efforts,” Bailey said. Mazure’s list of goals for next year would be to “have returning members, see more schools represented on the team, and hold a retreat so the team can get to know each other earlier in the process.”

This year was a monumental moment in providing knowledge and resources about child abuse in the community. Last year, the 2020-2021 team personally handed out buttons and masks to their peers to reach their goal of sparking awareness on the topic of child sexual abuse. The students this year wrote, directed, and edited a video to share the CAC’s message which can be viewed at this link. Both projects “provided sexual abuse awareness and prevention resources to approximately 1,000 high school students in Ottawa County in the spring of 2021” and “viewed more than 1,600 times on YouTube, shared on Facebook and Instagram, and have the potential to reach students all over Ottawa and beyond,” Mazure said. As Bailey mentioned, this project was not a “one-time event but can continue to be shared and viewed for months, and years to come!”

“I am proud to be part of a movement working to de-stigmatize conversations around preventing child sexual abuse,” Mazure stated. Bailey concluded, “I believe that everyone deserves a place to feel safe and heal after being abused. I feel honored to be a part of that process for our clients and their families.”