BY TOM BUSSELBERG
FARMINGTON — Just last year, the Children’s Justice Center interviewed almost 500 abused children and conducted almost 100 physical exams, looking for evidence of abuse.
The new facility, which opened in December 2011, is a haven for abused kids. The organization has been in operation since the late 90s.
It is “probably one of the best things we can do for young people that get abused,” said County Commission Chair John Petroff.
The home-like center is at 98 S. 100 East in downtown Farmington.
His comments followed a presentation about the center by its coordinator, Susan Burton, to the Davis County Community of Promise earlier this month.
The current building is about eighteen months old and was specifically designed, inside and out, to provide a home-like, peaceful environment where young people up through the age of 17 can be interviewed after a sexual or physical abuse situation.
“Last year we interviewed 494 young people,” Burton said adding, “Probably twice that number of cases aren’t reported” to law enforcement or such agencies as the Utah Division of Child & Family Services.
Law enforcers, attorneys and other officials can interview children in privacy at the Children’s Justice Center.
That contrasts sharply with situations Kay Card, a former Division of Child & Family Services counselor, remembers. She has had to conduct interviews in such places as the corner of school stages or in principal’s offices, she said.
Before the Children’s Justice Center was located in Farmington, physical exams had to be done in Ogden, Burton said.
Despite the high numbers, officials say many children don’t get help. Often, victims either don’t report the abuse at all for fear of reprisal, or they wait so long that an exam reveals no signs of abuse, she said.
“Some 53 percent of victims wait up to two years to report the incident,” Burton said.
She presented these sobering statistics:
* One third of suicides in the nation can be attributed to sexual or physical abuse, she said.
* One third of perpetrators committed abuse on one of their own children
* Seventy percent or more of abusers were friends of victims.
“We need to invite parents into their schools and hold workshops” alerting them to talk with their children about abuse, Burton said.
Parents should also carefully monitor their children’s online presence and use, she emphasized.
Having previously worked for a police department and at the Utah State Prison, Burton recalled the case of a 13-year-old girl.
“Through the Internet, a little girl met what she thought was the love of her life,” Burton said. “She thought he was 18. He sent her money and she was headed to California,” unbeknownst to her family.
Police stopped the girl just as she was preparing to board a bus to California. The man she thought was 18 turned out to be an anything but.
The Children’s Justice Center is funded through private and public sources, and doesn’t rely on the county for much of its funding. The center gets some funding through such fund raisers as an annual golf tournament in June.
For more information, visit co.davis.ut.us/cjc.