SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – One in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. That’s according to the Gingerbread House Child Advocacy Center in Shreveport, which is working to help abuse victims reclaim the joy of childhood.
“I was able to tell my story in a safe place and I had somebody who was going to listen to me,” said Sophia Herron who is the Director of Child Life and Community Engagement at Gingerbread House. She was sexually abused when she was 13 years old. She now works at the Gingerbread House, where her journey to healing began.
“Gingerbread House is a children’s advocacy center and we work with child victims of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, and child sex trafficking; all the way from little bitty ones age two to 17,” explained Jessica Milan Miller, CEO of Gingerbread House.
Once an abuse case is reported to law enforcement, victims are referred to Gingerbread House.
“We do what is known as a forensic interview and that is where the child can tell, in his or her own words, what has happened to them,” said Miller. “That is audio and video recorded and can then be used to prosecute the case criminally.”
Herron says she understands what the children are feeling when they first arrive at Gingerbread House.
“They’re probably feeling scared, angry because those are the feelings I felt when I was walking through the door. This is probably the most difficult thing that a child is going to have to tell.,” said Herron. “Somebody they’ve loved, somebody they knew, hurt them.”
After the forensic interview, counseling begins, not only for the child but also for non-offending family members.
“It definitely helps so that you understand that what happened was not your fault. A lot of parents, too, need counseling so that they know it wasn’t something that they did wrong; and to be the best parents, they need counseling as well,” Herron shared.
She and Miller say counseling, support, and compassion lay the groundwork for a lifetime of healing.
“I think seeing that healing journey for a child is what we’re about,” Miller said. “We want to help kids and make sure they know that what has happened to them does not have to define who they are or who they will become.”
“We want these children to have happy childhoods,” said Herron. “And that’s the number one thing.”
The Gingerbread House provides all of its services free of charge, thanks to the generosity of donors. Be sure to join NBC 6 for 6 Hours of Caring on October 4th from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.