KALISPELL – The Flathead County Children’s Advocacy Center is leading the way in the state with one of the first multidisciplinary teams specially trained to respond to child victims of sexual assault.
The facility can be found inside Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department, but you won’t find any signs of it in the hospital in order to protect a victim’s identity and produce a better future outcome.
"You come in from the outside down a private hallway and then our staff will direct you into our suite," said Debbie Mulcah who works at KRMC as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. "You have to have a badge to get in."
The private entrance is one way the new center will help to protect child victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse.
"Once a child discloses abuse it is then reported, and that report is referred to our Children’s Advocacy Center. I — in turn along with other interviewers — will sit down and forensically interview these children," said Flathead County Children’s Advocacy Center Director Kipp Tkachyk.
Tkachyk told MTN News that he’s seen an increase in the number of child sexual abuses cases in the Flathead Valley adding that of the 139 interviews conducted at the Center last year only 12 were not related to sexual abuse.
"Child sexual abuse is a statewide issue and it’s a national issue. Our data tells us that one out of every 10 children in the United States will be sexually assaulted by the time they’re 18," said Dana Toole with the Montana Department of Justice’s LCSW Children’s Justice Bureau.
Toole added that Flathead County is leading the way in protecting abused children in the state.
"We think of Kalispell’s multidisciplinary team and the CAC we are celebrating today as leaders of our state movement," said Toole. "In 2007 Montana had one accredited CAC and now we have 10 and Kalispell has been a very important part of that."
Flathead County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jeanne Parker is the original grant writer for the project that began more than two decades ago.
"I might have put pen to paper and taken everybody’s idea and put it in the paper to begin the process and to formulate the entire advocacy center but the advocacy center wouldn’t be existence today without all the members," Parker recalled.
One of the critical members in helping to set up the Center is the Flathead County Sheriffs Office which helped to secure funding early on in the process. The Flathead County Children’s Advocacy Center, which uses space donated by KRMC, was previously located upstairs.