NEWS

New Children’s Advocacy Center satellite office offers outlet for underage abuse victims

Staff Report

The opening of the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center’s satellite office Tuesday in New Roads will provide westside parishes an outlet for children victimized by domestic violence and physical/sexual abuse.

The facility will serve parishes on the Westside – including Iberville, West Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, Avoyelles and St. Landry parishes – which will make it much easier than traveling to Baton Rouge to report cases of physical and sexual abuse.

The services are free.

The Baton Rouge Children's Advocacy Center opens a satellite office in New Roads.

BRCAC will have an interview room at the Pointe Coupee Parish Criminal Investigations Division office, 1919 Hospital Road, which will be available every Tuesday for children to speak with forensic counselors about physical or sexual abuse.

The advocacy center had been seeking a satellite facility for several years, Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff Rene Thibodeaux said.

“This is something we’ve wanted for the area ever since I became sheriff,” he said.

“It’s a win for the entire Westside because victims and families can speak about the cases without having to travel as far as Baton Rouge.”

The Sheriff’s Office saw a spike in cases of physical and sexual abuse of juveniles during the pandemic, according to Capt. Nick Gremillion, of the Criminal Investigation Division.

The satellite office provides a more comfortable setting for juvenile victims to tell their stories, he said.

“Picture a 5-year-old who witnessed a horrendous tragedy and had to tell their story to someone they never met before in a room where you interrogate suspects,” Gremillion said. 

“That’s terrible – two chairs and a table – and it’s not where I’d want my child to have to tell a story, and I would want them to be comfortable here.

“What we have here is a softer room, more

child-friendly for kids and even for adults, it’s more comfortable for them to tell their story,” he said.

“My goal – and it’s the same goal with the Sheriff’s Office and CAC -- is to provide a safe haven for kids and victims of crimes such as domestic abuse or physical or sexual abuse.”

Gremillion said he hopes the closer proximity makes a difference, as well.

“We have a lot of victims who are afraid to come out and tell their stories because they don’t have the adequate place to do it, and the travel time is difficult as well, especially with the traffic in Baton Rouge,” he said.

“We want this to be a ‘safe haven’ for them to come tell their stories.”

The satellite office brings law enforcement and the Child Advocacy Center together in the same facility, which means the child only has to discuss an abuse experience once.

The goal is to ease the trauma a child suffers, officials say.

“We want to give them a space where they can feel comfortable,” said Kailko Harris, the lead forensic interviewer for the CAC.

“By coming to this satellite facility, they don’t have to discuss it at school or a hospital.”

CAC also will expand its services with the addition of mental health therapy sessions.

Grant funding from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Capital Area United Way, Pennington Foundation, New York Life, the National Children’s Alliance and other nonprofit organizations helped fund the facility.