First Of Its Kind, One Stop Shop Child Advocacy Center Planned For Northeast South Dakota

It’s estimated that around 4,000 children are victims of sexual abuse in South Dakota each year. When a case is reported, many counties don’t have the resources necessary to deal with them. But that could soon change for the northeast portion of the state.

In 2015, there were 188 reported cases of child sexual abuse in northeast South Dakota; 49 of them out of Watertown. When reported here, victims have to drive an hour-and-a-half to be interviewed and examined.

Codington County State’s Attorney Patrick McMann said, “If a child reported here today, to the Watertown Police Department, arrangements would be made to travel down to Sioux Falls to Child’s Voice for an interview, depending on whether it could be done today. It could depend on how many other cases they had going on.”

McMann, who also serves on Jolene’s Task Force, says the national standard is that a Child Advocacy Center be no more than an hour

away.

McMann said, “Obviously, your bigger counties, your Minnehaha and Pennington, are going to have more funding and resources to do this, but the more rural you get, the harder it is to have experts that do all of this specific type of care.”

The Task Force, which looks at the impact of child sexual abuse in the state, recommended that a center be created in Watertown. It’s expected to be up and running by July 1.

“This isn’t a Watertown problem or a northeastern South Dakota problem. This was created by the structures that we have in place. We didn’t have any Child Advocacy Centers in this area,” McMann said.

It won’t be just any center. Victims from 13 counties would be able to report abuse, get medical care, legal counseling, and mental health help all in one place. Officials believe this would be the first regional center of its kind in the country.

“You take one interview so you’re not victimizing the child over and over again,” said Watertown Police Department Assistant Chief Tim Toomey. “it’s kind of a one-stop shop. It’s going to be a lot more fluid for the children, where we can have a quicker resolution to the case, reducing the trauma as well as following them through the recovery process.”

If successful, they would look at replicating it in other places.

Officials wouldn’t be building, but they do believe they have a location in place. Information on where is still to come. Walmart has

already donated $6,500 to the cause.

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