The three women honored by the Child Abuse Prevention Council with its Champion for Children Award for 2012 work tirelessly on behalf of Livingston County’s youngest victims of abuse.
Pam Maas and Marilyn Bradford of the Livingston County Prosecutors Office, and Elizabeth Stahl of LACASA — the CAP Council’s 2012 Champions — have a combined 50 years of commitment to the children of the community.
The three women, “respected by peers, feared by perpetrators, and loved by kids,” received their awards at the May 18 Power of One celebration at the Johnson Center at Cleary University in Howell.
I can’t imagine more deserving winners: It’s tough work these women do.
Consider that in Livingston County — known for its rural beauty, convenient location and amazing growth rate — the number of child abuse cases soared a jaw-dropping, gut-wrenching 344 percent in the past 10 years.
You read that right: 344 percent.
That number means nothing, really, without some perspective. So here is a frightening perspective: Last year alone, 172 children were interviewed in the CARE (Child Abuse Response Effort) program through LACASA, the organization that works with victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.
CARE makes it possible for a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to observe through a two-way mirror the interviews of kids who are victims, or suspected victims. The program allows children to answer questions and tell their stories in a safe, secure setting just once; they don’t have to relive the terror of their abuse over and over, interview by interview.
That 172 interviews were conducted in the past year should give each of us pause: that’s works out to nearly four a week.
Consider, too, that of those interviews, 82 percent involved allegations of sexual abuse. It’s a statistic sobering in any light, but especially so when you learn that the national average of sexual abuse alleged in reported child abuse cases is 17 percent.
“It’s a big problem in our community,” said Bobette Schrandt, LACASA’s president and CEO, during the Power of One event.
That’s why the dedication of professionals like Pam Maas, Marilyn Bradford and Elizabeth Stahl is so vital to Livingston County’s kids.
Maas is Livingston County’s primary prosecutor on cases involving children; Bradford, the county’s prosecutor in juvenile court, is also a juvenile justice trainer; and Stahl is an expert forensic interviewer with LACASA.
Each shares their knowledge and expertise with other professionals; each also does their absolute best advocating for the youngest victims of abuse in Livingston County.
Their jobs are often heart-breaking, always tough. They don’t do it for the money, or the glory, or the awards. They do it for the kids.
That’s why they so richly deserve the 2012 Champion for Children Awards, as well as our admiration and gratitude.