There are thousands of children living in abusive situations. They live with it because they’re too young, innocent, and powerless to break free. Whether it’s sexual abuse, or repeated physical assault, these future adults suffer in silence in a world that must appear cruel and hostile to them.
Those of us who have been fortunate enough to grow up in loving, nurturing households cannot begin to understand the torment and self-devaluation that these children face each day. Living in a world of giants, they need to rely on the decency of those who have authority over them. When their trust has been violated, to whom do they turn? Hopefully, someone will notice their distress and intervene.
Perhaps a schoolteacher observes that a student’s academic grades have taken a downward turn. Maybe a next-door neighbor has, from time to time, noticed unusual bruises on a child. Or, as is the case very often, the non-offending parent might file a report with the police, alleging misconduct toward the child. That’s when the child protection agencies swing into action. Providing a safe, non-threatening atmosphere, the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County (CACDC) offers a child friendly environment so necessary during the early stages of trauma reduction. There was a time, not long ago, when investigations were conducted in the cold, severe surroundings of a police station. Such an atmosphere can further traumatize a child who has already been struggling to survive in an oppressive climate.
The CACDC is committed to a multidisciplinary response to child sexual abuse. Established in 1997, the agency coordinates with law enforcement, child protective services, medical and mental health professionals to help children and their non-offending family members seek justice and find healing. Dan Leal has been the Executive Director of CACDC since 2002. Born in Victoria, Texas, he graduated from UNT and worked as a sports broadcaster in college and on the radio. Also a student of public relations, Dan worked with the Denton County MHMR for two years as Public Information Officer and Director of Community Relations. In addition, he helped form the Homeless Coalition in 1999, which helped homeless people become more self-sufficient.
Jody Smith, former three-term Mayor of Flower Mound, and Dianne Costa, former two-term Mayor of Highland Village, are board members of CACDC and part of its Capital Campaign endeavor. They have reached out to prominent members of the community in an effort to bring awareness to the scourge of child abuse. In the accompanying video, Jody and Dan talk about the need for a public recognition of this ongoing abuse that affects one out of ten children in the county. Thanks to people like Dan, Jody, Dianne and so many others, those children will be able to escape from their abusers and be provided counseling to help them deal with the trauma they’ve experienced. “I see the healing taking place,” Dan said, adding, “I see kids able to smile again and I know that God has chosen this for me.” The children’s hotline number is 1-800-252-5400 to report suspected abuse.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor.