By Tammy Gray
Children who are victims of sexual abuse have a new safe harbor in Navajo County. The new family advocacy center located at the Navajo County complex in Holbrook is now open and providing a one-stop, secure environment for children to go through the necessary legal process for their abuser to be prosecuted. An open house for the public to learn more about the center is planned from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 8.
“It’s a safe, comfortable environment in which the child will only have to tell what happened once,” explained advocacy center Executive Director Aaron Ulibarri. “Before the centers, the child was taken in the back seat of a police car to Flagstaff for a forensic medical exam. This eliminates that unnecessary journey.”
Ulibarri explained that a young victim would also have to undergo numerous grueling interviews by police, prosecutors and Child Protective Services (CPS). At the advocacy center, a single interview is conducted and videotaped. Officials from several agencies, such as the county attorney’s office and CPS, can also be present at once, viewing the interview from another room.
In addition to a forensic interview room, the center is equipped with a state-of-the-art forensic medical exam room and a comfortable waiting room filled with stuffed animals.
The center at the county complex is the second one to open in Navajo County. One in Show Low has been in operation for about three years.
“Since we opened the first one on May 2011, we saw 23 children that year in Show Low. In 2013, that jumped to 212. We are currently at 66 since the end of April for this year,” Ulibarri said.
He noted that the majority of children seen at the centers are between 7 and 12 years old.
Both centers are operated through private donations and fundraisers. According to Ulibarri, they are not funded by the federal, state, county or city government. Several fundraisers are held throughout the year, including a golf tournament at Torreon, which will be held on June 6 this year.
No fundraisers are planned for the open house. Ulibarri explained that it is simply a way for the community to learn about the center. There will be a tour of the facility, as well as light appetizers, and the building will be dedicated at that time.
For more information about the center, or to learn how to provide financial support for its operation, contact Ulibarri at (928) 242-6565.
By Tammy Gray