Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center?
The Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center (HCCAC) is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses a multi-agency approach to the investigation, intervention, and coordination of services for children and families affected by emotional, physical and sexual abuse or neglect. Our facility includes a staff of highly skilled and specially trained individuals who work closely with Child Protective Services (CPS), law enforcement organizations, as well as other agencies involved in investigating and prosecuting these sensitive cases.
Why is HCCAC necessary?
The criminal justice system was primarily designed for adult perpetrators, not child victims. The process lacked coordination between police, prosecution, mental health, and medical agencies. Before HCCAC, children were often “re-victimized” through unnecessary and repetitive interviews due to each agency’s independent process. The process often duplicated efforts and complicated information in an already complex legal system. The Center helps overcome these problems by reducing child trauma, enhancing investigation, and resulting in improved lives for child victims and higher conviction rates for offenders.
Who does the HCCAC serve?
The HCCAC serves 5 counties including Blanco, Burnet, Lampasas, Llano, and San Saba. HCCAC primarily serves children under the age of 18 who have been the victim of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, neglect or witness to a violent crime. HCCAC also serves community professionals through development and training, as well as providing programs to civic groups and other services providers on child abuse-related topics.
Are clients charged for services?
When a child is referred to HCCAC, families are able to take advantage of all services offered by the Center including forensic interviews, sexual assault exams, victim support, and counseling free of charge. By removing the financial burden often faced by families who have experienced trauma, HCCAC believes that families are better able to focus on each other and help one another through the healing process.
Who supports HCCAC?
Support for HCCAC comes from an array of sources including private donations, corporate contributions, foundation grants, government grants, and special events and fundraisers.
How are children referred to HCCAC?
Children are referred through the agencies that are mandated to receive reports of child abuse: Child Protective Services, local law enforcement, and prosecution (County/District Attorney).
Who are the victims?
Approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Child abuse affects children and families across all socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial boundaries. Additionally, 1 in 5 children are sexually solicited on the internet. Only 1 in 10 children will tell someone about their abuse. 95% of children are abused by someone they know and trust. The Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center serves on average over 300 children per year.
Who are the perpetrators?
Perpetrators “groom” their victims over long periods of time in a means to establish, trust, a false sense of safety, and security. 95% of children are victimized people who they know and trust such as a parent, guardian, sibling, coach, or teacher.
Here’s what the perpetrators are up to:
Grooming is a process. It begins when the predator chooses a target area. He or she may visit places where children are likely to go: schools, shopping malls, playgrounds, parks, and the like. He or she may work or volunteer at businesses that cater to children. Other predators strike up relationships with adults who have children in the home—single-parent families make particularly good targets.
Victim selection and recruitment are next. There is no prototypical victim of child sexual abuse. Any child may be victimized. Not surprisingly, predators often target children with obvious vulnerabilities. A child who feels unloved and unpopular will soak up adult attention like a sponge. Children with family problems, who spend time alone and unsupervised, who lack confidence and self-esteem, and who are isolated from their peers are all likely targets.
Predators engage or “recruit” their victims in different ways. Many use a combination of forced teaming and charm. They may offer to play games, give rides, or buy treats and gifts as tokens of friendship. They may offer drugs or alcohol to older children or teenagers. And they almost always offer a sympathetic, understanding ear. Your parents don’t understand or respect you? I do. Other kids make fun of you? I know what that’s like—it was the same way for me when I was your age. They don’t trust you at home? Boy, I know what that’s like—your parents never really want you to grow up. But I trust you. I respect you. I care for you more than anybody else. And I love you. I’m here for you.
Successful predators find and fill voids in a child’s life.
A predator will usually introduce secrecy at some point during the grooming process. Initially, secrecy binds the victim to the predator: “Here’s some candy. But don’t tell your friends because they’ll be jealous, and don’t tell your mother because she won’t like you eating between meals.” Later on, secrecy joins hands with threats: “If you tell your mother what happened, she’ll hate you. It’ll kill her. Or I’ll kill her. Or I’ll kill you.”
The forging of an emotional bond through grooming leads to physical contact. Predators use the grooming process to break down a child’s defenses and increase the child’s acceptance of touch. The first physical contact between predator and victim is often nonsexual touching designed to identify limits: an “accidental” touch, an arm around the shoulder, a brushing of hair. Nonsexual touching desensitizes the child. It breaks down inhibitions and leads to more overt sexual touching—the predator’s ultimate goal.
The best way to recognize grooming behavior is to pay attention to your child and the people in your child’s life. Gavin de Becker sensibly reminds us that “[c]hildren require the protection of adults, usually from adults. Their fear of people is not yet developed, their intuition not yet loaded with enough information and experience to keep them from harm.” There are many demands placed upon our time, but nothing—nothing—is more important than the welfare of our children. When we blindly surrender responsibility for them to others without question, we invite trouble. Parents should know their child’s teachers, coaches, daycare providers, youth group leaders, and other significant adults in their lives. Make unannounced visits. Ask questions. Stay involved.
What is child abuse?
It is important to understand that there are 7 types of abuse and neglect.
Emotional Abuse – Mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning. It is causing or permitting the child to be in a situation in which the child sustains a mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning.
Physical Abuse – Physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child, including an injury that is at variance with the history or explanation given. This excludes an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm. It is also the failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent an action by another person that results in physical injury and substantial harm to the child.
Sexual Abuse – Sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or sexual conduct, as those terms are defined by Section 43.01, Penal Code, sexual penetration with a foreign object, incest, sexual assault, or sodomy inflicted on, shown to, or intentionally practiced in the presence of a child in the child is present only to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of any person. It is the failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or sexual conduct, as those terms are defined by Section 43.01, Penal Code, sexual penetration with a foreign object, incest, sexual assault, or sodomy being inflicted on or shown to a child by another person, or intentionally practiced in the presence of a child by another person if the child is present only to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of another person. This includes compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct as defined by section 43.01, Penal Code. Sexual abuse also includes causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing the photographing, filming, or depicting of the child if the person knew or should have known that the resulting photograph, film, or depiction of the child is obscene (as by the Penal Code) or pornographic.
Abandonment – Leaving a child in a situation exposing him/her to a substantial risk of harm, without arranging for necessary care for the child, when there is a demonstrated intent not to return by the parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator of the child.
Neglectful Supervision – Placing the child in or failure to remove the child from a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities and that results in bodily injury or substantial risk of immediate harm to the child.
Medical Neglect – The failure to seek, obtain or follow through with medical care for the child, with the failure resulting in or presenting a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, or bodily injury or with the failure resulting in an observable and material impairment to the growth, development, or functioning of the child.
Physical Neglect – The failure to provide the child with food, clothing, or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child, excluding failure caused primarily by financial inability unless relief services had been offered and refused.
What should I say to my child after finding out about abuse?
Your first task when sexual abuse is disclosed is to separate the natural reactions to overwhelmingly bad news from disbelief of your child. Your child needs to know that you believe him/her and will support him/her. The feeling that you’ll wake up soon and find out it was all a bad dream is called denial. It provides only brief protection from the frustration, misery, horror, and isolation that may follow.
Take a minute now and review what went through your head as you learned your child had been sexually abused, and what you said to your child. Is there anything you want to change now? If you hesitated before acting, your child may not understand why. It is important for you to talk about this with your child.
Children who have someone understanding and supporting them suffer fewer ill effects than do children without help. Your role as a parent is to support your child in recovery by providing reassurance, safety, and love. You must also make decisions about medical care, legal proceedings, and counseling. Children need reassurance that they didn’t cause your anger, upset, and sadness. Some children’s belief that they are the cause of everything may make this difficult for them to understand.
What to Say:
- I believe you.
- I’m sorry this happened to you.
- I’m glad I know.
- You will be taken care of.
- I’m not sure what will happen next.
- This has happened to other children: your age, younger and older, boys and girls.
- Nothing about you made it happen.
- I will do my best to protect you, now that I know.
- You don’t need to take care of me.
- I know it wasn’t your fault.
- We will all get through this, just like we recover from illness or an accident, but it may take a long time.
- I am upset, but not with you.
- I’m angry with the person who did this
- I’m sad. You may see me cry. That’s all right. I will be able to take care of you. I’m not mad at you.