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RAPE Treatment Center soon to be Comfort House

Milltown’s RAPE Treatment Center will change its name and expand its offerings to the community Oct. 3, when it dedicates a children’s advocacy center designed to provide specialized care in a comfortable environment for young people who have been victims of sexual abuse.
The center will be known as Comfort House and will continue to provide help for adults who have been victims of abuse, while also treating children in an environment tailored especially for them.
Staff of the former RAPE Treatment Center, which opened in April 2002, found the need for the children’s center when they realized victimized children required a safe place where they could be examined, interviewed and assessed. A goal of the new center is to alleviate some of the trauma children suffer as they go through the medical and legal systems.
The new center is a collaborative effort between the local law enforcement community, nurses and local prosecutors’ offices, said the director, Lola Ratterman, R.N.
‘It’s all going to be one combined unit,’ Ratterman said. The center will utilize multi-disciplinary teams who work together to investigate sex abuse cases.
Officials at the center hope to cut down on the interviews a child must endure, with hopes of limiting that process to a single precise fact-finding session.
‘The goal is that we can get all the information that all the agencies need through one interview,’ she said.
The interviews will take place in a room equipped with closed-circuit television, so one member of the team can conduct the interview while others are watching outside, thus not intimidating a frightened child with a room full of adults.
Children’s advocacy teams have been active in Harrison County for more than two years, while teams in Crawford and Orange counties have been organized since May. Members of these teams have all completed specialized training to learn techniques for interviewing children and investigating their cases. Seventeen people attended the ‘Finding Words’ children’s interviewing workshops.
Children’s sexual assault medical examinations will also be conducted at the center, Ratterman said, adding this is another feature of the plan that will allow agencies to share information, since everything will be done under the same roof.
‘If we could all work together, we could provide the best possible services for the child,’ she said.
The space the children’s advocacy center will occupy, in the basement of the Milltown Medical Building, adjacent to the old RAPE Center, was vacant for about seven years before volunteers began refurbishing it last February. Materials, including paint, carpet, tile and other building necessities, and time have been donated to help complete the project.
The center will include an office, reception area, interview room, kitchen, play areas and a handicapped-accessible rest room. Ratterman’s daughter, Maggie, 22, is painting a mural in one of the rooms.
The children’s advocacy center will likely be certified through the National Children’s Alliance, which outlines practices used when child sexual abuse cases are investigated.
Once up and running, the child advocacy center will be one of only nine such facilities in Indiana, with the closest being Amy’s House in Jeffersonville.
Lisa McSpadden, a child victim advocate/administrative assistant for the new center, was hired with a grant from NCA and began work in January.
McSpadden said the RAPE Center saw 71 children in 2003 and, as of last week, has seen 36 so far this year.
‘I think we’re hoping to see more with the child advocacy center being available,’ Ratterman said. The service area is being expanded to accommodate victims from Dubois, Perry and Spencer counties.
When a child is taken to the center, team members assemble and the child is interviewed and examined, Ratterman said. Advocates work with the family and the child. The center works side-by-side with other victim organizations, such as Crisis Connection, The Center for Women and Families, and Hoosier Hills PACT.
‘Advocates give referral to legal assistance and mental health agencies,’ McSpadden said.
The teams meet monthly to review cases and evaluate the status and effectiveness of their operating procedures ‘for our own improvement,’ Ratterman said.
Ratterman said she looks for a ‘festival atmosphere’ at the center’s grand opening Oct. 3 and hopes the community will become acquainted with the center’s new name.
‘We want the kids to know this is a safe place,’ she said. ‘We want a name that’s friendlier.’
Art contest for
grand opening
McSpadden is organizing an art contest for the grand opening, with hopes of receiving art to decorate the new space.
The contest is open to children and adults and will have the following classes: Grades one to three, four to six, seven to nine, 10 to 12, and an adult open class.
The subject matter must portray comfort and/or hope. The entries must be framed and hung and can be of any style or size.
The contest is open to residents of Crawford, Harrison and Orange counties. Entries are to be picked up at 7:30 p.m. (fast time) that day at Comfort House. First-place winners will have artwork displayed at Comfort House, and ribbons will be awarded.
The deadline to register for the contest is Sept. 15. Artwork must be dropped off by 5 p.m. (fast time) at Comfort House Sept. 29. Judging will be Oct. 1, and winners will be announced at 3:30 p.m. at the grand opening.
For more information on the contest or to register, contact McSpadden at 633-2500.

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