September 25, 2023
Wenatchee, WA - Sage Advocacy Center is thrilled to partner with law enforcement agencies in Chelan and Douglas counties to introduce the Community Justice Initiative, a two-year child abuse prevention project being offered throughout Chelan and Douglas counties. Sage Advocacy Center’s proposal was chosen by the Washington State Department of Commerce to be funded as a part of the state's Community Law Enforcement Program (CLEP). Washington State legislature introduced CLEP funding with the intent of building trust and understanding with law enforcement in the interest of greater crime prevention in communities. This is the first time that CLEP funding has been granted to a local agency from Chelan and Douglas counties, and the first time all four law enforcement jurisdictions have allied with a local nonprofit for long-term community education and outreach.
Beginning in August, Sage staff and 15 officers from Chelan and Douglas County Sheriff’s Department as well as Wenatchee and East Wenatchee Police Department will be trained to deliver the curriculum “Protecting our Children” to adults working in schools, faith-based communities, businesses and other institutions in the area. The curriculum was developed by national expert on preventing child abuse, Cory Jewel Jensen. Jensen has more than thirty years of experience in counseling psychology and teaches that the best way to prevent child sexual abuse is to understand the motivations, tactics, and risk factors associated with child molesters. This powerful curriculum will equip adults in our community with knowledge and tools to protect children from sexual abuse, a problem that has been rising in recent years. In the past year alone, Sage Advocacy Center served 316 children who had been impacted by or who are direct victims of sexual abuse. The majority of children do not disclose sexual abuse, indicating that around 3% of children in Chelan and Douglas counties are likely exposed to sexual abuse. “These numbers are up from prior years, and it’s time to find preventative solutions for children in our Valley,” said Sage’s new Executive Director, Dr. Bethany Alhaidari. Dr. Alhaidari stepped into the role just a few months ago and this is her first successful project implementation. It expands the agency’s programs for the first time since 2006. She expressed that the project proposal her team developed would not have been possible without the support and participation of local Chiefs and Sheriffs and their teams.
Letters of support for the program were signed and attached to Sage’s grant application from Chelan County Sheriff Morrison, Douglas County Sheriff Morris, Wenatchee Police Chief Crown, and East Wenatchee Police Chief Johnson. Chief Johnson and Sheriff Morris both expressed their agency’s commitment to protecting children from abuse and recognized the need for prevention efforts against sexual crimes in the community. “The [Chelan County] Sheriff's Office shares a common goal with Sage: to decrease instances of child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence within our community,” wrote Sheriff Morrison in his letter of support, “We firmly believe that the key to achieving this goal lies in building greater communication, understanding, and trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve. Sage's Community Justice Initiative would facilitate this crucial objective by promoting collaboration between our agencies, community organizations, and residents.”
Many in the community are still unaware of Sage's work alongside detectives in investigating cases of sexual abuse and assault against children. “Since 2006, Sage has partnered with detectives, prosecutors' offices, and medical providers to offer trauma-informed support to children who have suffered from sexual abuse,” said Mirella Sanchez. Sanchez was promoted to Programs Manager at Sage after excelling as an Advocate. Sanchez serves as one of Sage's bilingual child forensic interviewers and leads the Multidisciplinary team coordination. Sanchez brings experience and perspective to the team that will be delivering the sessions alongside law enforcement in the program.
“Sage Advocacy Center has a brave, dedicated, and talented team,” said Dr. Alhaidari, “Our team is a force of good and empathy in this community, and I see how difficult their daily work is. For far too long we have been stuck in crisis response to sexual abuse, this program is a strong step forward as we move from response to prevention.”
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