Grandma’s House in Harrison, Ark. helping to convict child abuse and sex offenders
HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Over the last six years, Boone County has seen a steep increase in sex crime-related cases.
Prosecuting Attorney David Ethredge says this is the result of growing efforts by several agencies in the county to not let these crimes go unseen.
Grandma’s House Child Advocacy Center in Harrison continues to help victims through interviews, examinations, and other parts of criminal investigations by creating safe environments for victims to speak out against their offenders.
Grandma’s House currently has pinwheels outside their center to recognize both Child Abuse Awareness Month and National Crime Victims Rights Week.
“It’s always more than people think. Grandma’s House served 433 kids in 2021, and I can’t even tell you how many of them were found true,” said Kaliegh Evans, spokesperson for Grandma’s House. “It’s just a full-circle process to see these victims who are actually children get to see that justice and reach that hope and healing,”
The work is done in tandem with the office of the Boone County victim witness coordinator, April Benefiel.
“I wish the community would understand, being a victim is hard. It’s hard and traumatizing, and coming forward is even harder,” said Benefiel. “We utilize a lot of different tools to help victims through the process, whatever we can do, we’re going to do.”
The county prosecutor’s office says 98% of child abuse and sexual assault allegations are later found to be true. Benefiel says statistics vary on the percentage of child abuse and sex crime victims that come forward, but she believes as many as 90% of victims may never speak out.
A Newton County, Arkansas, man was recently accused of inappropriate sexual contact with an underage family member. An investigator made arrangements for the 14-year-old victim to meet with a forensic interviewer and a child advocate at Grandma’s House Child Advocacy Center in Harrison.
“Getting to come to a place that looks like this, that’s home and Grandma-esk, just gives everybody a safe, neutral, child-friendly setting because we want victims and their non-offending family members to feel comfortable,” said Evans.
The advocacy center receives help from the Boone County Prosecutors Office, which provides several difference tools and services, including their canine companion dog Augustine.
“We call him Auggie or August. All the kids love him, he comes to court with me when we have a kid testify,” Benefiel explained. “I’ve had kids that wouldn’t get out of a car to do an interview, but they’ll get out to play with a dog.”
Grandma’s House has been working to get more volunteers for child advocacy and various events they put on. CLICK HERE for more information on Grandma’s House.
To report a correction or typo, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2022 KY3. All rights reserved.