RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. -- The time after a crime, especially one like child abuse or sexual assault, can be incredibly challenging for the victims and their families. A new approach to handling the aftermath is helping in communities like Randolph County.
Emmy's House, a children's advocacy center, opened in March 2018. It took a long time to get there though. A local police officer first brought up the idea for the center to the Randolph County Family Crisis Center after handling a number of these cases. The organization worked alongside city and county leaders, the District Attorney's Office, and other organizations to get the center opened up.
“It’s something that we would like to think as a community, it’s a resource we would like to think it’s not something we would need. But unfortunately, it is. And I think that it is such a blessing to be able to have it here, where families are not needing to drive an hour to get this kind of service,” Cassie Casabona, the Director of Emmy's House, said.
On some of the most challenging days of someone's life, they
At Emmy's House, a victim can come to a place right in their own community to receive their forensic interview, medical assessment, and therapy.
Before Emmy's House opened its doors, victims would have to go to Forsyth County or Chapel Hill to get the services they need.
“So you’re looking at where before it was 6 weeks, we can get them on the books as soon as three days if we need to,” the Director of Family Crisis Center, Dare Spicer said.
The ability to get all of those services in one spot has changed the way Randolph County law enforcement handles these cases. District Attorney Andrew Gregson says it helps his office better prosecute offenders.
“It is really difficult to overstate how much of a game-changer this has been for these types of cases. We control the quality of the product, we have a say in how these cases are handled whereas before we did not. The victims are being quickly after they disclose or the allegations come to light which is very important," the district attorney said.
Law enforcement, the Department of Social Services, medical experts, therapists, and more all work together. This streamlines the process for law enforcement, and more importantly the victims.
“Well these cases are among the worst cases we deal with as prosecutors. Because the effect they have on the children is so devastating, they’re so difficult. And sometimes even when you win you don’t feel like you’ve won because you know that child has been victimized. So the better we can make the process for them,” he said.
Emmy's House has seen as many as nine victims in one week.“Well you would like to think we won’t have the numbers that we have you don’t want to think that there are this many children that are harmed. But Lindsay I thank God every day that we are here, because just like with the rest of our programs… what if we weren’t?” Spicer said.
In the first six months the shelter was open, they saw 66 in clients. The first six months of 2018, there were around 80 clients. And by September, there were almost 100 new cases referred by law enforcement to Emmy's House.