Child advocates talk prevention amid prevalence of alleged sex crimes against children

April is National Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 5:51 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Over the past several weeks, Action 2 News has been following the prevalence of alleged sex crimes against children in Brown County.

Action 2 News is not identifying the suspects facing charges in an effort to protect the juvenile victims.

Willow Tree Cornerstone Child Advocacy Center in Green Bay works with children affected by different forms of abuse, including sexual abuse.

Willow Tree program manager and child forensic interviewer, Kristie Sickel, said there isn’t a tell-tale sign that a child is a victim of abuse.

“Every individual and every child, regardless, if they’re like male or female and their age, they’re going to display different symptoms. You know, a child could have a regression in their developmental milestones. They may have some acting out behaviors, but those behaviors can also lead to other issues going on in the child’s life,” said Sickel.

While there are resources like Willow Tree in the community to help with investigations, Sickel said parents can help with prevention.

“Parents really serve as the best educators when it comes to promoting body safety with our children,” said Sickel.

Sickel said teaching kids the proper names of private body parts is important and that they are meant to be covered up.

“Also practice anatomy with children to let children know that they have the right to say no to unwanted touches or feels that they get from anybody, even people that they know and trust,” said Sickel.

Sickel said it’s also important to continue to have these conversations with kids as they age.

“If you think about it, when we talk about safety with kids about riding their bike and wearing their seatbelt that’s something that we always instill in kids every time they ride their bike, you know, put your helmet on. Every time you get in the car, you know, put your seatbelt on and we can’t expect to have a conversation about keeping their body safe one time with a child and then the child to you know retain that information and then to you know, move forward with that information. So it’s important to keep the message going with kids,” said Sickel.

Willow Tree opened its doors in 2011 and is a program within Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin. Child advocates help law enforcement, child protective services and district attorney offices throughout Northeast Wisconsin by assisting with active child abuse investigations.

“Our goal of Willow Tree is that the child doesn’t have to go to all those people to get the help that they need. They can come to our location. We’re all there. All the people come to them to help them move forward,” said Sickel.

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month.