Snowbird, UT (June 9, 2015) –Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes welcomed approximately 700 multi-disciplinary professionals from across Utah to the 20th Anniversary of the Utah Children’s Justice Symposium / Utah Prosecution Council Domestic Violence Conference today at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. Each year, law enforcement, child protective services specialists, prosecutors, medical and mental health professionals, victim advocates and Children’s Justice Center (CJC) staff unite for training and collaboration. The conference will continue through June 10, 2015, with many of the sessions closed to the media and public due to victim privacy concerns.
AG Reyes urged attendees to participate in the One With Courage campaign by helping other adults learn how to speak up for children threatened by child sexual abuse. He said, “One With Courage is not intended for children. We want adults who suspect or are aware of abuse to speak up, rather than leaving that child to suffer now and into their adulthood.” The public is invited to participate in One With Courage with details at onewithcourageutah.org.
In addition, Attorney General Reyes reminded the group of experts in the field to not forget the past as services have evolved into highly effective models. “I reflect back on how things used to be because to fully appreciate where we are today, we have to remember where we came from,” he said. “We have to remember there was a time when little thought was given to whether our actions caused additional trauma for the child, when there was virtually no research informing our forensic interview practices, when investigative results on the same child and incident were not shared between agencies, and when medical and mental health providers were not invited to the table.”
“Today’s multidisciplinary practices are proving very effective,” said AG Reyes. “The advances over the past 25 years, many of them tied to the beginnings of the Children’s Justice Center 24 years ago, show purpose behind practice. Not only are the professionals of today passionate about their work, but they also collaborate with other experts to support the victims in more holistic healing processes.”
This year, the Children’s Justice Center program, administered through the Utah Attorney General’s Office, will open the 21st and 22nd Utah centers. “Our CJC program, directed by veteran professional Tracey Tabet, is dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective, efficient, and that minimize trauma for the child,” said AG Reyes. CJC is a child-focused, facility-based program in which representatives from law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical services, and victim advocacy work together to conduct interviews and make team decisions about investigation, prosecution, and treatment of child abuse cases. He continued, “I want to personally thank every professional who works with our Children’s Justice Centers and serves the approximately 5,500 cases and more than 13,000 people annually that they keep.”
In addition to the Attorney General’s Office administering the CJC program, the office’s Child Protection Division, under the leadership of Dave Carlson, recently received the Governor’s Award for Excellence for Outstanding Public Service. He, and 36 other Child Protection Division assistant attorneys general and their capable staff, many of whom are attending the symposium, work day in and day out with DCFS to ensure safe living environments for children, while also balancing and respecting parental and family rights.
The Utah AG also supervises the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) to investigate and prosecute those who use the Internet to exploit children and the SECURE Strike Force to investigate and prosecute human trafficking threats that often times include children. Attorney General Reyes assured the audience, “I promise you that in the Utah Attorney General’s Office, we are working tirelessly to not only end these types of crimes, but also to support the victims through the healing process.”
He completed his conference welcome by challenging the attendees, “As we look over the past, and even over the past year and a half that I have had the opportunity to work with you on these efforts, let’s make sure to remember where we came from and appreciate where we are today, but let’s not stop there. We owe you a debt of gratitude, but we also depend on you as the experts and leaders in your respective fields. You are the backbone of Utah’s response to child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault. I challenge you to envision where we can go tomorrow, and take us there.”
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