PHOTO: Davis House Executive Director Marcus Stamps sits inside a child advocate’s office, holding one of the teddy bears that are given to child victims of sexual abuse / Photo by Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
Since 1983, the United States government has recognized April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. But for the Davis House Child Advocacy Center in Franklin, every month is dedicated to educating the community on the reality of child sexual abuse and working to end it.
Executive Director Marcus Stamps said statistics show one in 10 children will be subject to sexual abuse before the age of 18, and that only 12 percent of cases are ever reported.
“It is the law for every adult in the state of Tennessee to report either known or suspected child abuse,” he said. “We can help you do that.”
Tara Tidwell is the marketing and communications outreach coordinator at Davis House. She said there are three types of trainings the center offers to community members, all at no cost.
The Davis House was formed from a county child advocacy task force in 1999 for the 21st judicial district. The district includes Williamson, Hickman, Perry and Lewis counties.
The center provides preventative training, legal, medical, and counseling services, as well as supporting the families of abused children, at no cost. Services for some clients last weeks or months; for others, they can last years.
After a report of abuse is made to the Department of Children’s Services or law enforcement, those entities will often refer the child and non-offending family member to the Davis House.
Once at the house, the child will undergo a forensic interview. They describe the incident(s) using a large sketchpad to help illustrate.
Following that visit, the child will be scheduled for a visit with the children’s advocate. The advocate will then help connect them to counseling or any outside resources they might need.
If a lawsuit has been filed and the child has been called to testify in court, the children’s advocate is allowed to accompany the child to the courtroom for a court orientation prior to a trial. By doing this, advocates are able to help acclimate them to what can be an intimidating environment.
“These kids that we’re treating today grow up to be me and you,” Stamps said, emphasizing the importance of early intervention in situations of abuse.
All of the Davis House’s services are provided at no cost, and they receive approximately 30 percent of funding from government grants.
The next Davis House fundraiser will be their Rock the House Music Jam songwriter’s night. It will be held at the Franklin Theatre on May 25.