JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – When dealing with children who have been abused, experts say it's important that they feel safe.
Since 2009, the Northeast Arkansas Children's Advocacy Center has provided a secure, child-friendly environment for children to share their stories. The center, however, has been missing a critical part of its operation – until now.
The center opened its new medical examination room earlier this month, allowing the organization to provide a vital service for abused children.
The exam room intentionally looks different than a standard doctor's office with its clouds painted on the walls and hot air balloons hanging from the ceiling.
The center wanted to create an inviting space for children who come to get checked out after allegations of sexual abuse. Young victims in Northeast Arkansas can now receive a medical exam in Jonesboro instead of having to travel to Little Rock, which is critical, according to Susie Cover, the executive director.
"A lot of times, we don't discover any information that's going to help with an investigation," Cover explained. "But, when a child has been sexually molested, there's a moment when a nurse and someone they know is a professional tells them that they're okay and they're not broken. That's what makes it so important."
The center has also named a medical director, Dawn McPike. The advanced nurse practitioner has received special training to handle sexual abuse cases and will conduct all the exams.
"Getting a medical exam not only helps clear up anything they may have been exposed to," McPike said, "but it also helps, for the most part, them realize that they are okay and that they are normal and that no one can tell what's happened to them."
The center was able to complete the exam room two years ahead of schedule, thanks to a sizable grant from the WalMart Foundation and other local support.
To learn more about the Northeast Arkansas Children's Advocacy Center, click here.