When Things Go Right


Carly Bentley & Gwen Taylor



“I felt it was important to let you know…







December 16, 2015

Mrs. Bolde,

I recently made use of your facility to assist me in a complaint our department was investigating. This was the first time I have used a Child Advocacy Center, and I wanted to let you know how impressed I was with your staff. Family Advocate Gwen Taylor initially assisted in the in-processing. As you know, successful investigation of possible child abuse cases frequently hinge on the small details involved in the case. Having someone who can do this preliminary work with the family so professionally, as Gwen did, was a great help to me.

I was one of the first group of law enforcement officers to undergo the Child Forensic Interview training. Even though I have been doing these types of interviews for a long time, there are certain elements, such as the sex and age of the child, that can affect the successful outcome of the interview. If the child is not comfortable with the interviewer from the beginning, the likelihood of a favorable outcome is reduced. It was a real learning experience watching Carly Bentley do such a professional job. I have observed other interviewers in the past, but none who’s skill and rapport were as good as hers. In the future, I will incorporate many of the techniques I learned watching her into my own interview process.

Having been in law enforcement for 23 years, I am well aware that management always hears when things go wrong, and rarely hears when things go right. Having seen your staff first hand, I felt it was important to let you know how impressed I was with their dedication and professionalism. It’s rare when a resource is available that actually makes law enforcement’s job easier, and this was definitely one of them.

I have already told members of other local law enforcement agency about my experience with TBCAC, and highly recommend they make use of an excellent available resource. Thank you for your time. I look forward to working with TBCAC in the future.

Officer Mark Torrence
Cheboygan City Police Department


Budget Pact Raids Victims Funds


The government’s just-approved budget deal takes $1.5 billion from a fund for crime victims and uses it instead to help pay for federal spending, drawing on a growing reserve collected from settlements with banks and major corporations. The unprecedented transfer, part of closed-door negotiations between the Obama administration and congressional leaders, has raised the ire of advocates. They say it violates the integrity of a decades-old program that funds safe havens for domestic violence victims, counseling for abused children and financial aid for murder victims’ families, among other programs.

The administration and Republican congressional leaders averted a partial government shutdown by striking a two-year budget deal approved by Congress last week. As part of the pact the Crime Victims Fund will lose $1.5 billion to the general treasury, Obama administration officials said. The $1.5 billion shift is just one step negotiators took to fund about $80 billion in spending above budget limits called the sequestration. Others include $5.1 billion to be raised by selling 58 million barrels of oil of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and $4.4 billion by auctioning off airwave spectrum. Since the fund’s creation in 1984 by the Victims of Crime Act, it has gathered money from fines imposed on criminals and set it aside to pay for services for crime victims. But during the Obama administration, as major banks and corporations paid large sums to settle Justice Department investigations, the fund ballooned from about $3 billion to nearly $12 billion at the end of the 2014 budget year, according to the department.

Then, in 2015 alone, the Justice Department struck deals that will result in payments to the fund totaling over $5 billion, according to figures compiled by an association of state officials who run victim-assistance programs. That included a $1.1 billion payment by Credit Suisse AG for helping Americans hide assets from the Internal Revenue Service; $140 million from BNP Paribas bank for violating U.S. sanctions; and $925 million from Citicorp to settle a probe into the bank’s role in rigging foreign currency exchange rates.

Some of that money has not actually arrived in the fund yet, but has been promised in legal settlements. The fund’s growing size has presented policy makers with a dilemma. When the fund began, the government paid out almost every dollar it received. But in 2000, Congress began capping the amount paid each year to ensure a steady stream of money for victims’ services. From 2000 to 2008, the fund grew from $1 billion to $3 billion. As its balance kept rising, White House accountants were able to use the cash in an accounting move to offset government spending. Now, Congress and the White House have struck a deal to go further, by agreeing to withdraw some 10% of the money to directly fund the government.

Victims’ advocates say the move could set a dangerous precedent and encourage lawmakers to keep dipping into a pot of money intended to help crime victims, not to pay government bills. “It’s a threat to the integrity of the fund,’’ said Steve Derene, executive director of the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators, a group of state and local officials who oversee crime victim programs. Mr. Derene said he was concerned about the long-term implications of using crime victim money for general government spending. Two years ago, the fund distributed about $745 million for victims services. That jumped last year to almost $2.4 billion, most in grants to state and local groups that provide counseling, aid or other services. The proposed White House budget for fiscal 2016, which started Oct. 1, would give $1 billion to victim-services groups. Budget officials said it was a coincidence that the proposed reduction from last year’s $2.4 billion is about the same as the amount to be transferred out of the fund to general spending.

An administration official declined to explain what is behind the proposed cut, but said that Congress could increase the amount paid above the administration’s proposal. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) referred questions about the fund to the White House. In Phoenix, the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, which helps homeless, runaway and at-risk youth, recently received its first grant from the fund, said spokesman Ken Lynch.

“Thank goodness for rogue corporations,’’ said Mr. Lynch. “I can’t think of a better use of money coming in as a penalty than to use it to help the most vulnerable and most abused people in our society.’’ Mr. Lynch called the $600,000 grant “a godsend’’ that will be used to provide shelter and counseling for young victims of sex trafficking. “It’s very disheartening to hear that money for victims would be utilized for purposes other than the original intent.”


A Partnership for the Victims of Child Abuse



BY RICK CHARMOLI  | October 26, 2015

WEXFORD — A new partnership between Wexford County and a national organization with local ties is looking to help protect children when they need it most.

Recently, Wexford County has entered into talks with the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center. The Traverse City center is a regional response center for the protection and well-being of children. It provides prevention education and multidisciplinary intervention in the investigation, assessment and treatment of child sexual abuse, child physical abuse and for children who witness violence.

Children’s Advocacy Centers were first developed in the United States in the 1980s and were designed to reduce the stress on child abuse victims and families created by traditional child abuse investigation and prosecution procedures and to improve the effectiveness of the response.

Sue Bolde is the executive director of the Traverse City CAC and she said the goal of the organization is to do the work that needs to be done in any abuse case that is sensitive, supportive and safe for the child. Currently, Bolde said the Traverse City office serves five counties including Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim, Kalkaska and Benzie as well as the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

“At our core our model is teamwork. We bring everyone (law enforcement, child protective services, and the prosecuting attorney) together at the front end and we put the child first,” she said. “The CAC model brings the system to the child.”

For example, if the team comprised of the different agencies decides a child would benefit from counseling services, the decision can be made immediately and care can begin from either right at the CAC’s office or through a referral, Bolde said.

Wexford County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Chris Piskor said the benefit the CAC provides is huge. It not only helps the child and their family deal with abuse but also helps law enforcement. In particular, Piskor said the CAC can do the forensic interview of the victim.

A forensic interview is a structured conversation with a child intended to elicit detailed information about a possible event or events a child may have experienced or witnessed. There are several purposes of a forensic interview. They include obtaining information from a child that may be helpful in a criminal investigation; assessing the safety of a child’s living arrangements; obtaining information that will either corroborate or refute allegations or suspicions of abuse and neglect; and assessing the need for medical treatment and psychological care.

“We can’t ask leading questions. You can’t ask follow up questions,” Piskor said of the forensic interview process. “We don’t have the facility here at the sheriff’s office that is conducive to doing an interview with a child. The CAC is more like your living room and it creates an environment that makes the child feel more safe. For us, that is a huge advantage.”

Piskor also said there is only one chance to do a forensic interview and while he is trained to do them, he does not do them all the time. The CAC has someone who does these on a regular basis and has the expertise to make sure the process is done correctly each time.

Bolde said the person who does the interviews at the CAC is trained in child development and follows the strict protocols for forensic interviews.

“In more rural areas, police are doing a lot of different things. It is unfair to expect them to switch roles and feel good about their work,” she said. “That is why we are a tremendous assistance to rural communities.”

Although Bolde said the CAC is in the process of getting an agreement in place with Wexford County, she also said once that is in place she will be looking at finding local partners to have linkage agreements with. That would be for things such as medical or mental health partners but also other services.

Healing Private Wounds Executive Director Shirley Petersen said she believes having the CAC partner with Wexford County is a great idea and one she would be willing to support. She also said she believes her organization would be willing to be one of the local partners with the CAC.

“I believe it is a good thing. The more agencies that collaborate together and spread the news. It (abuse) is out there and there are services available,” Petersen said. “We need to work as a community. That is important.”

While Piskor, as well as Undersheriff Trent Taylor, have said the rate of sexual abuse and criminal sexual conduct doesn’t seem to be rising, so far this year the sheriff’s office has investigated 24 cases. Piskor said he looked at 19 of the 24 cases and 17 of those 19 he looked at had victims under the age of 18.

Petersen said when you look at the stats, it can be alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in five females and one in seven males will experience some sort of sexual abuse. Most victims who experience sexual abuse are under the age of 6.

While those numbers are alarming, Petersen said what is more shocking is there are probably more that go unreported. That said, Petersen is encouraged to see more people, both males and females, coming forward looking for help.

“It is good that people are more free to talk about it and we are getting more younger people who are talking about it. The younger you begin the healing the better you will be,” she said. “They don’t carry the shame, and fall into the pitfalls of feeling unworthy, dirty or using drugs and alcohol to cover up how they are feeling.”

For more information about the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, log on to traversebaycac.org and for more information about or to find support from Healing Private Wounds in Cadillac, log on to www.healingprivatewounds.org or call (231) 846-4495.


Preventing Abuse Through Story, Song

Miriam and Jenifer

Singer and song writer Miriam Pico, left, and storyteller Jenifer Strauss rehearse for their story time presentation, “My Body Belongs to Me,” for pre-schoolers and kindergarteners on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse at the Traverse Area District Library Woodmere Branch.


BY SARAH ELMS selms@record-eagle.com | October 11, 2015

TRAVERSE CITY — Jenifer Strauss and Miriam Pico aim to reduce child sexual abuse through story and song.

The local storyteller and singer-songwriter are teaming up with officials from the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center and the Traverse Area District Library to host a special story time geared toward young kids and their families.

“This topic is a sensitive one, but it’s also a really important one,” Strauss said.

Strauss and Pico will adapt stories and songs from children’s books like, “My Body Belongs to Me” by Jill Stareshevsky and “Some Secrets Should Never be Kept” by Jayneen Sanders at the Oct. 12 event.

Using stories and sing-along songs is a gentle way to spark a dialogue about protecting children and preventing abuse, said Cathy Lancaster, TADL Youth Services Coordinator.

“It’s really meant to leave them with the understanding that they control their space and their bodies and there is a difference between secrets and surprises,” Lancaster said. “It’s a tough conversation, but I think Jenifer and Miriam really present it more about empowering young children.”

Child sexual abuse impacts one in 10 children, and younger children often are the most at-risk, said Hannah Rodriguez, prevention coordinator at the CAC.

“Children are often sexually abused during preschool and kindergarten age because that’s when they’re the most vulnerable,” she said. “This is the age we want to start talking about it.”
The program is an encore of a similar story time held in April, brought back to the library at the request of community members.

Organizers are offering a late-morning and evening presentation to reach as many school groups, childcare centers and parents as possible.

“I think it’s such a sensitive topic that a lot of parents want to be there with their child,” Lancaster said. “I think there’s a lot for parents to learn as well in terms of how to speak with their children about these things and making children feel comfortable to confide in them.”

The CAC is in the early stages of applying for grants to fund similar programs at schools and libraries across the state.

“The goal is to put this show on the road so we can reach a larger audience, so it doesn’t stop here and the message continues,” Strauss said.

The two special story times are set for Oct. 12 at 11 a.m. and at 6:30 p.m. at the main library branch on Woodmere Avenue in Traverse City. Call the library’s youth services department at 231-932-8503 for more information or to register a group of 10 or more.

Storyteller Jenifer Strauss uses puppets Sniggle, left, and Snaggle as part of her presentation with singer and song writer Miriam Pico on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse.

Storyteller Jenifer Strauss uses puppets Sniggle, left, and Snaggle as part of her presentation with singer and song writer Miriam Pico on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse.

One in 10: Teachers taught signs of child sexual abuse



BY SARAH ELMS selms@record-eagle.com | September 3, 2015

TRAVERSE CITY — Nearly 600 Traverse City Area Public Schools employees will go through a new safety training before classes resume next week — one that focuses on keeping children safe outside of the classroom.

The Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center through a grant from the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation is providing free training throughout the community on how adults can identify and respond to child sexual abuse.
“What we want everyone to walk away with is more knowledge and more tools to make sure that when we’re interacting with children we’re doing everything we can to really listen to them and keep them safe,” the center’s Prevention Coordinator Hannah Rodriguez said.

Suttons Bay Public Schools held a training on Sunday, and TCAPS’ training kicked off on Tuesday. It’s the first time local districts participated in the sessions on such a large scale, Rodriguez said.

“We used to talk about stranger danger, and we found out in the training that in over 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases the abuser is someone the child knows and trusts,” Superintendent Paul Soma said. “It’s real important stuff. It’s part of our safety and security measures.”

Traverse City High School Principal Lance Morgan sits on the center’s board of directors. He said the training gives educators the tools they need to address abuse, but it also spurs conversation around a startling statistic: One in 10 children is sexually abused before they turn 18.

“The more that we can make people aware of the situation, I think the safer everybody is going to be,” he said.

Morgan hopes the training is the first of more to come both within TCAPS and at other districts in the region.

“I think it’s certainly important to get the certified staff trained, but it’s equally important to get our bus drivers, our custodians, our secretaries and our administrative staff trained,” he said. “It’s absolutely my hope that other districts and the ISD take a look at this for their staff.”

Children’s Advocacy Center Expands


BY SARAH ELMS selms@record-eagle.com | August 18, 2015

TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center has become a regional response hub for cases of child sexual abuse, physical abuse and witness to violence, and officials have a new building to help them handle the increased caseload.

The center started with partnerships in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties and with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The center’s reach has grown in the past year to include Benzie, Kalkaska and Antrim counties, and with that so has the community need.

Officials conducted 27 forensic interviews in June compared to eight interviews in that same month last year.

“That’s a significant increase,” said Executive Director Sue Bolde.

The CAC in August moved to a larger building in Traverse City that offers two forensic interviewing rooms and three rooms that can be used for counseling. The previous building had only one interview room and one counseling space.

“It gives us the opportunity to meet the need,” Bolde said.

Dr. Amelia Siders, the center’s clinical director, said the extra space also will allow her to bring social work interns on board from neighboring universities. They’ll learn more about trauma-informed treatment and the CAC will be able to provide counseling to more clients.

“It’s not just for a child, but also if a parent needs support or if we have siblings that are really struggling with that happened,” Siders said. “So the more people we have here that can provide treatment, the better our services will be.”

The new building also includes a vacant cafe space Bolde hopes to use as a community learning center.

“We’re dreaming big about that space,” she said. “We see it becoming a community learning center that would house the CAC’s prevention initiative program but also would be available to our partners in the community to use for educational opportunities.”

Traverse City couple Marty and Olivia Lagina donated the money to cover 75 percent of the new building’s cost, and the Oleson Foundation gave $20,000 to help cover remodeling expenses.

The CAC is hosting a Circle of Friends Luncheon on Oct. 6 to raise money to pay for the remaining moving expenses.

Making, Baking, and Talking…

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The Grand Traverse Pie Company’s “Kid’s Make and Bake” was about much more than cherry pie… This event is a big hit at the National Cherry Festival each year and provides a unique and effective platform to advocate on behalf of children everywhere. Within the Grand Traverse Pie Company’s message of “Love, Peace, and Pie” there lies an incredible opportunity to speak with parents and caregivers about the importance of prevention and speaking openly about child sexual abuse.

As we welcomed over 400 children (plus their accompanying adults) into the tent, there was an air of excitement accompanied by the sobering truth that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. We know that prevention is the answer and that education is the first step in heading down that path. We are incredibly grateful to the Grand Traverse Pie Company for providing us with a national platform for relaying this message and to all those adults who took the time to bring their children to this event and take a moment to have a conversation with us.

It is clear that the community is ready to hear this message and they are also ready to respond. Let’s continue this conversation so we can create a world where every child has the opportunity to live a happy and healthy life. To learn more about what you can do to keep the conversation going, visit our Prevention Education page.

Also, be sure and check out the featured story on the Kid’s Make and Bake from 9and10 News!

Free Training to Prevent Abuse: Advocacy Center Grows Prevention Efforts


BY SARAH ELMS selms@record-eagle.com | June 16, 2015

TRAVERSE CITY — One in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center officials know the statistic well, and they’re reaching out to area adults to help keep children safe.

They’ve created a core team of about 20 volunteers certified to provide child sexual abuse prevention training to adults at schools, businesses or volunteer organizations in the Grand Traverse region.

“This is happening everywhere in every community including our own, and it is really time to help adults in our community to understand this issue and that it is their responsibility to keep (children) safe,” said Hannah Rodriguez, the center’s prevention coordinator.

Jayne Mohr, a retired educator and the advocacy center’s board chairwoman, is a member of the new team of trainers. She said it’s important for adults to take responsibility for the heath and safety of children, who are often too young to stand up for themselves.

The training will give adults the education they need to recognize the signs of abuse in children and the tools to act responsibly.

“Obtaining the skills to do something about it and to take those next steps is what we’re really shooting for,” Rodriguez said.

The training is free through a partnership with the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, and anyone can get involved. Rodriguez encourages interested groups to contact the center and set up a training session.

“It’s up to adults to talk to their children, to talk to one another, and to say as a community, ‘this is not OK with us,'” she said. “We’re a community committed to making the health and safety of our children a priority.”

Call 231-929-4250 for more information or to schedule a training session.


_837577The moment a child discloses abuse will most likely be remembered as one of the toughest moments of their life.

It is our job to make it as easy as possible for our children to come to us when they have something difficult to say. The last thing they want or need is judgement or questions that make them feel guilty for waiting to tell or allowing it to happen in the first place.

Since only a small percentage of children will tell about their abuse within the first year, it’s necessary that we instill a sense that “it’s never too late” – that no matter how serious or scary, we will support and help them – that’s our job as adults.


Sexual abuse is often confusing for a child. Abusers often manipulate children by making them feel that this is a loving interaction, that it is normal. They often seek to pleasure the child so that the child feel good about what is happening. The older the child – the more likely they are to understand that this is not normal, and become confused by feelings of wanting it not to occur yet physically feeling pleasure. This can lead to feelings of embarrassment, shame, and guilt for being “complicit” in their own abuse. Some children would rather deal with the stress and burden of carrying these emotions than have to face their parents and expose their “dirtiness” and/or failure to say no to their abuser.

We must remind our children:
If you were are too afraid to say no – it’s not your fault.
If the person tricked or scared you into letting them touch you, or you touch them – it’s not your fault.
If you feel like you love this person – it’s not your fault.
If it felt good to your body – it’s not your fault.
If it happened over and over again – it’s still not your fault.

This happens to children all over the world.
You have nothing to be ashamed about.
I would always be happy and proud of you for telling me.
I love you no matter what.


Shine On! Gala set for April 23

TBCAC-Shine-On Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2015 4:36 pm

BY SARAH ELMS selms@record-eagle.com TRAVERSE CITY — “Shine on” is the staff motto at the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center. It’s also the name of their first gala fundraiser set for next week. Officials designated the April 23 event as a way to build awareness about child abuse prevention and also to celebrate the community partnerships that keep children safe. Hannah Rodriguez, the center’s prevention coordinator, called the gala “a collage performance.” Singer-songwriter Miriam Pico will emcee the event, which will include musical performances by Traverse Symphony Orchestra’s Michael Beery and duo Seth Bernard and May Erlewine. There will also be a spoken word performance by a survivor of child sexual abuse. “That is going to be very powerful,” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez cautioned anyone sensitive to the topic or parents intending to bring small children that the spoken word piece may be difficult for some to hear. The gala also will include a silent auction for a children’s bicycle. All proceeds from the auction and a portion of the event’s ticket sales will go directly to the advocacy center and its programs. The nonprofit provides child abuse prevention and intervention services to children and families throughout the community, and officials rely greatly on grants and donations. “Everything we do at the Children’s Advocacy Center for children and families we provide for free,” Rodriguez said. “Support from our community financially and socially is so important for use so that we can continue to do this work.” The gala is April 23 from 7-9 p.m. at InsideOut Gallery in Traverse city. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased in advance at mynorth.com or at the door.