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New center will spare sexual assault victims long trip
Wyoming first lady Carol Mead spoke to attorneys and children's advocates at the opening of a children's interview center Thursday in Riverton. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

New interview center will spare young sexual assault victims a long road trip

Oct 2, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Young sexual abuse victims no longer will have to travel to Natrona County to undergo forensic interviews. The Children's Advocacy Project has opened the doors of a new satellite center in Riverton that will provide interviews and services for county children.

CAP is a non-profit, private program that coordinates response teams for cases of alleged physical and sexual child abuse and other crimes that involve children.

On Thursday, CAP executive director Heather Ross directed a ribbon-cutting ceremony that was attended by Wyoming first lady Carol Mead, assistant district attorney and CAP board chairman Brian Christensen, Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett and several other community members.

"This shows a collaboration of a lot of hard work," Mead said. "I congratulate you for expanding this program here in Fremont County."

CAP provides extensive, ongoing training for interviewers and works with child abuse investigative and prosecution agencies to put guilty individuals behind bars. The organization, Bennett said, receives little state or federal funding but has managed to "protect, identify and prosecute" those responsible for crimes.

"We can give almost immediate services to these children, and that's why this is an important and notable accomplishment," Bennett said.

Mead recognized the support from area city councils, Riverton and Lander police departments, the Fremont County Sheriff's Office and a handful of foundations who contribute to the organization.

"That has meant so much to so many families in Wyoming," Mead said.

The first lady gave statistics about sexual and physical abuse victims, saying there are currently about 39 million survivors of abuse, and roughly four children a day die from abuse or neglect, most under the age of 3.

"Those numbers are downright troubling and shocking," she said.

Christensen said the live camera interviews at the facility will be available to assisting parties and will help build successful cases for the victims.

Riverton police chief Mike Broadhead said the long trip to Casper for a forensic interview often causes trauma and discomfort for the children involved. Furthermore, the children often have to repeat their story to more than one person.

"This is the only really effective way to interview them without traumatizing them," Broadhead said.

He also said that trained interviewers can better lead the questioning and are specialized in all aspects of the process.

CAP hopes to facilitate the way children and adults report cases and enhance communication between all agencies, law enforcement, child protection investigators and prosecutors. CAP began its services for Natrona County in 2002 but has since served the rest of the state, conducting more than 200 interviews and working with more than 2,500 children.

In June, the Riverton City Council approved providing $3,500 for the organization. Surrounding counties also will be able to benefit from the services in Riverton.

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