Teen staff creates video on little one intercourse abuse help companies

Kayla Tucker
| Grand Haven Tribune

HOLLAND — A team of Ottawa County teenagers recently created a video to reach their peers about childhood sex abuse and resources where they can get help.

“We’re making a video to highlight the CAC (Children’s Advocacy Center) and the services they provide,” said Gabe Trask, a sophomore at Spring Lake High School and a member of the CAC Youth Advocacy Team. “We want to share it because we know teenagers might be at a vulnerable stage in life and maybe they don’t really know where to go.”

The Youth Advocacy Team, consisting of 13 high school students, is in its second year. Each year, the group is tasked with a project that will give back to the community.

The CAC is a nonprofit located in Holland where victims of child sex abuse and their families can go to get a full range of support, starting with the initial forensic interview, to ongoing individual and group counseling. The center serves at least 400 new children each year.

“We want to have one place that’s child-friendly, where the child goes to tell their story one time, because multiple interviews can be retraumatizing to children,” CAC Program Director Shyra Williams said. “So if we bring together everyone that needs to hear the story, they just need to tell it one time. Those listening to the interview would include police, medical staff, legal staff, counselors – and potentially more if needed.”

Tessie Morales, 18, was a client at the CAC when she was in middle school. She is now a member of its Youth Advocacy Team.

“I just really wanted to give back, if you will, because it was a very helpful service for me,” said Morales, a senior at West Ottawa High School.

Morales said she found out about the opportunity at school. After her forensic interview, she attended individual counseling, and then a support group for young women.

“It was a lot of realizing you’re not alone,” she said. “I felt a lot of compassion for everyone in the room because they’ve been through so much.”

The video, which is a little less than five minutes long, will be distributed to local high schools. It is also available to view on the CAC’s Youtube, Facebook and Instagram pages.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to serve my community,” said Trask, 15, who originally found out about the team last year on Instagram. “I didn’t realize how much (child sex abuse) occurs. I didn’t realize how big of an issue this is, even around here, because sometimes you forget that happens everywhere. I also learned so much about this place (the CAC) and I tell my friends, or if anyone is in trouble, I can tell them (about it).”

For more information about how to get involved with the center, visit cac-ottawa.org/ways-to-give. There are also free training sessions offered every month as a way to get started.

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