SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Starting Monday, Santa Clara County is taking a new approach to handling physical and sexual abuse of children.
A $6 million investment to create a new Child Advocacy Center is focused on reducing stress on young people already traumatized as victims of physical or sexual abuse. In the past, they would have to go to multiple locations to deal with investigators from police, the district attorney's office and social service agencies.
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"Having all of the partners under the same roof to provide a team approach for investigations will help reduce the trauma to children and families of having to be interviewed and reinterviewed multiple times by three to five different partners," said Erin O'Brien, president and CEO of Community Solutions.
The key to that will be interview rooms where observers from allied agencies can ask one time the difficult and sometimes disturbing questions of a child's physical or sexual abuse.
"It's going to be recorded so that if it needs to be used in court, it can be used in that place, too," said Santa Clara County Asst. District Attorney James Gibbons-Shapiro. "It's reducing the trend of the child by not having to relieve that trauma again and again and again."
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The number of sexual assault crimes against children increased during the pandemic. The 483 cases last year in Santa Clara County was a 21% increase from the previous year. There is concern that the number will rise in the months ahead.
"As we get past this pandemic and we're able to go back to our normal lives, sadly there will be more children that will be reporting physical and sexual abuse," said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
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Rosen and child advocates say that's because children during the pandemic didn't have access to trusted adults they are comfortable to confide in.
The new Santa Clara County center will also provide a specially trained comfort dog for children to play with and to cuddle. That underscores how the focus will be on a comprehensive approach to tend to an abused child's physical, mental and emotional healing.