Lewis County Youth Advocacy Center

Lewis County Youth Advocacy Center forensic interviewer Samantha Mitchell, left, and executive director Rachel McClain discuss their new building in April, 2019.

The local chapter of Soroptimist International is scheduled to hold an event Wednesday in a similar vein to the one it held in January on human trafficking in Lewis County and the Pacific Northwest.

Centralia-Chehalis Soroptimist members are partnering with the Youth Advocacy Center of Lewis County for a free training session from 6-8 p.m. at the Centralia Community Church of God on Wednesday, focusing on how adults can prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse and assault.

“I would call it a continuum (from January),” said Peggy Hammer, a member of both the local Soroptimist chapter and the Human Response Network of Lewis County Board of Directors. “The event we had in January, there was a lot of emphasis and education about how prevalent (sex trafficking) is and how easily young people can be manipulated and groomed into that. This presentation is primarily a video training called Stewards of Children, but it’s also going to be facilitated by at least one staff member from the Youth Advocacy Center. It’s appropriate really for anyone, including teachers, church members, family members and anyone to provide awareness of child sexual assault and violence, as well as what can be done to help prevent it.”

The mission of Soroptimist International is to help educate and empower women and girls in the United States and beyond. 

Hammer said that while it’s not necessarily the intention of the local branch to place a continuous focus on sex crimes against children, opportunities to support organizations that strive to prevent those heinous acts as well as those that provide services for victims are something her group considers a high priority.

The Youth Advocacy Center of Lewis County provides support for children up to 18 years of age who are potential victims of or witnesses to abuse, neglect or violence. Staff members connect victims with advocates from the Human Response Network, medical professionals from the Northwest Pediatric Center in Centralia and a forensic interview done in-house.

The nonprofit recently moved from space provided for free since 2011 by the Northwest Pediatric Center to a new location owned by Pope’s Kids Place at 220 Washington Way. Its rent there is still free for at least the next year.

“Theirs is a facility that is specifically geared to be a single location where, if a child has been abused or assaulted, there is a shared resource for the whole county,” Hammer said. “They can do a very specialized and specifically trained interview process, a forensic interview, that is recorded so the information can be gathered a single time rather than forcing a child to relive their trauma over and over again. Part of their work is prevention-based, and they do a lot for the community.”

Continuing education credits are available to teachers and school staff who take part in an hour-long session following the presentation. For more information, call Youth Advocacy Center staff member Samantha Mitchell at 360-623-1990.

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