Helping Victims of Abuse Heal
In fiscal year 2022, the Proviso Children's Advocacy Center provided more than 1,200 children and families with free forensic interviews, advocacy services, and trauma-informed group and individual therapy.
The parent felt like the world was closing in around them. They had just learned that their child may have been a victim of abuse and — like 95% of child abuse victims — the abuse was allegedly at the hands of a close family member or friend.
They walked into the Proviso Children’s Advocacy Center (PCAC) to start the process of getting their child help and support. What they learned over time, through the compassion and services they received from the PCAC team, was that abuse did not get to define the story of their and their child’s lives.
Support gradually restored light to their child’s eyes. Therapy reassured them that they were not alone. Services from the PCAC team gave them hope for a bright future.
“Their lives may have been altered, but that does not mean they can’t go on and heal,” said Laura McCue, LCSW, PCAC Program Manager. “There is absolutely hope.”
Child-centered, trauma-informed services
In Cook County, tens of thousands of child abuse and neglect allegations are made every year. Child abuse and neglect have devastating effects on victims — effects that victims often carry with them into adulthood. These effects can include an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, anxiety, depression, obesity, substance use and suicide.
Thanks entirely to grant funding, including the longstanding support of the Westlake Health Foundation, Ascension Illinois’s PCAC serves child abuse victims and their non-offending caregivers. In fiscal year 2022, the PCAC provided more than 1,200 children and families with free forensic interviews, advocacy services, and trauma-informed group and individual therapy.
“Being able to provide the children we serve with a safe, child-centered and child-friendly space and investigative process reduces their trauma and gives them the ability to share their story unfiltered,” said Sherri Lau, PCAC Director. It also can prevent negative health consequences from building over a lifetime and create a new trajectory for the lives and futures of children and their families.
Being part of children’s improbable, yet incredible, journeys from hurt to healing has kept McCue dedicated for 23 years to the children and families she and her team serve at the PCAC.
“The population we work with is having trouble paying bills. They are barely hanging on. And now they’re finding out their child is potentially a victim of abuse,” McCue said. “The emotional strength that our families and kids have is just amazing. They keep waking up every day. They continue to show up for their kids. They answer our phone calls. They’re involved in the court case. They have this courage. It’s awe-inspiring. You never know how strong you are until you need to be.”
The families and being a part of their healing process are what keep her at the PCAC. McCue said every child and family has its own time table for healing. The key is to simply be there for them — and to let them know the team will be there for them whenever it is that they may be ready for therapy, services and more support. This approach works. McCue said it’s about “planting seeds for healing.”
The healing process continues
Not too long ago, the PCAC phone rang. It was the parent of a child who had come in many years ago to support their child after an abuse allegation was reported. Since then, the parent had continued to grapple with the trauma their child had endured because of the abuse. The parent also had started to reckon with abuse they themselves had suffered as a child — abuse they had never been able to share before and for which they had not previously received support or therapy.
Because they had remembered that the PCAC team had told them they would always be there for their family, however, the parent made that courageous outreach call to the PCAC to ask for help. Now, they are receiving trauma-informed therapy for free from the PCAC team, and they are able to continue their journey toward healing and rewriting the story of their life.