OCEAN CITY – The Cricket Center has initiated an “Enough Abuse” campaign to educate the community on child abuse and ways to help.
The Cricket Center is the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of Worcester County, which is a one-stop safe and friendly place where children who are victims of abuse can tell their story and get help for themselves and their non-offending family members.
“Basically, we came about in 2006 when a few agencies that investigate abuse came together as a group and decided that the way we were investigating abuse in the county was re-traumatizing the children,” Cricket Center Program Manager Wendy Myers said.
At a CAC, children are able to tell their story one time to a specially trained forensic interviewer. The interview is videotaped with recording equipment so that the different agencies may share the information without adding the trauma of re-interviewing the child multiple times.
The Cricket Center is staffed by partnering agencies, such as Atlantic General Hospital, Law Enforcement, Life Crisis Inc., Worcester County Board of Education, Worcester County Department of Social Services and Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The center is a 501c3 non-profit agency and is funded through donations and grants. The center receives no funds from any state, federal, or local budget.
The Cricket Center does not charge any fee for any service provided by its team including mental and medical treatment.
“The Cricket Center was one of three communities in the state to be chosen by the Family Tree,” Myers explained of how the “Enough Abuse” campaign got started.
The Family Tree provided funding for community education. A billboard can be viewed on Route 50 in West Ocean City advocating the “Enough Abuse” campaign.
“We have been going out in the community to talk about abuse and talk about tangible ways that folks can protect their children and how they can act responsibly if you should expect abuse,” Myers said.
According to the center, a team of 10 community professionals were trained in March for the “Enough Abuse” campaign, and as a team they have trained 165 Worcester County residents regarding the signs of child sexual abuse, how to react responsibly if they suspect abuse or if a child discloses to them and how to come together as a community to make the county safe for kids.
The campaign’s mission is to train more than 500 Worcester County residents and ask for help from the community. The center will train teachers, healthcare professionals, worship leaders, community coaches and volunteers, law enforcement personnel and more.
“We would like to extend the invitation … we really want to get out into the community and talk about this,” Myers said. “As a community, we can act responsibly.”
Last year there was 107 child abuse investigations conducted and this year through June there has been 49.
“That is a lot of investigations,” Myers said. “I believe we live in a beautiful place and it is not a fun thing to talk about but it is happening out there and we feel as adults we can take responsibility and can get out there and protect our kids and make it an even better county.”
The mission of The Cricket Center is to investigate and prosecute child abuse in Worcester County and to provide additional services to families who require help as a result of abuse. The center believes it is the responsibility of the community to provide community education and equip families with the tools they need to prevent this epidemic from continuing.