Children’s Justice Centers Are On the Frontlines of Combating Abuse. Here’s Why Their Services Are Essential.
I recently attended the open house and ribbon-cutting for the Cache County Children’s Justice Center (CJC) in Logan, Utah. It was renovated in collaboration with the Malouf Foundation, and I was amazed at how beautiful and peaceful the building is. There are interview rooms that feel like cozy living spaces, and during my visit, all I could think was how welcoming the place will be for children going through a tough time.
Utah currently has 26 Children’s Justice Centers that handle over 40,000 cases. CJCs are important additions to our communities. They serve children when there’s an allegation of child abuse, and there are different parties, like therapists and law enforcement, that talk to the child and then seek justice for them.
As a small child being sexually abused, I felt incredibly alone. I didn’t know what was happening to me, only that it felt wrong. I felt deep shame and embarrassment. I felt like I was different from other kids and that nobody in the world understood me. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about the abuse and nobody ever approached me.
My abuse went on for nearly 30 years. I went from being abused as a child, to being in an abusive marriage, and then being sold into trafficking — with no breaks in between. If someone would have spoken up, or if I would have had the support of a CJC, I might never have been trafficked and my life might look really different.
Unlike 30 years ago, we are not alone in this fight today. Children’s Justice Centers are on the frontlines of combating abuse, and the workers have seen things that most of us would never want to witness. But children need advocates, protection, comfort, and safety. Children’s Justice Centers provide that to those in need.
Shortly after my divorce, but still fighting for custody of my children, I had an experience of my own visiting a CJC. My oldest son told me that while he was in the care of his father, he was subjected to abuse at the hand of another child. I didn’t know what to do, but when I sought help from law enforcement, they sent me in the direction of a local CJC.
Upon entering the CJC, my son and I were surrounded with love and compassion. He went into one of the interview rooms where he was given a blanket to keep and a stuffed animal. The interview revealed the details of the abuse and we were able to move forward with getting him justice and taking care of his needs.
We have come a long way in the past 30 years. As someone who knows the struggles of being stuck in the cycle of abuse for many years, I am grateful to see things change for the better. I encourage everyone to get involved with their local CJC by donating stuffed animals and other comfort items, making a financial contribution, volunteering at a CJC event, or attending one of their fundraisers.
Thank you to everyone who is engaged in the fight for children’s safety and well-being. Your support is critical and makes a difference.