Safe Harbor Helps Young Crime Victims

By Hannah Anderson NBC15 Anchor | Photographed By Valerie Tobias

“It never once dawned on me it would be her.”

Sarah remembered her 15-year-old daughter Molly as vibrant, happy and excited to be in school. In 2016, Molly changed.

“She alienated herself from her friends,” Sarah says. “I couldn’t get her to go to school, and if she got to school, she would hide in the bathroom for hours.”

Molly was suicidal and wouldn’t tell anyone what was wrong. Sarah later discovered a family acquaintance sexually assaulted Molly. (All names have been changed to protect victim’s identities).

“She missed a bus, Brady offered to give her a ride home. He never took her home and took her to a local park and raped her,” Sarah said.

Within 24 hours of the start of the investigation, Sarah called Safe Harbor.

“We come in at a time when the family is in crisis,” Jennifer Ginsburg, executive director of the Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center, says. Safe Harbor is a resource in Madison that reduces trauma and promotes healing for children, as well as adults with intellectual disabilities. They are victims of or witness to crime.

“Instead of interviewing your child in the back of a police car, they bring the child to Safe Harbor, which is a safe child-friendly trauma-informed place,” Ginsburg says. The forensic interviews are recorded one-on-one, monitored by a team of trained professionals.

Safe Harbor provided 336 child forensic interviews in 2018, a 15 percent increase since 2015. Since 2010, Safe Harbor recorded a 137 percent increase in interviews.

“So many children say at the end of the interview when I ask how they’re feeling, they’re feeling so much better because they’ve been keeping these secrets for so long,” Ginsburg says.

In 2018, 63 percent of interviews at Safe Harbor involved sexual abuse, 21 percent involved physical abuse, 11 percent involved children as witnesses to domestic violence and 1 percent involved neglect.

Molly didn’t break her silence for a year after her incident, but thanks to Safe Harbor justice and recovery were possible.

“You change as a person. You change as a parent.” Sarah says. “Without Safe Harbor, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”

Visit safeharborhelpskids.org for more information.

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