The One Place Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is improving services to victims of child abuse and neglect in Onslow County through the upgrade of a piece of medical equipment.
Our CAC employs state-of-the-art practices and technology in service to victims of sexual and physical abuse between the ages of birth and 17. More than 70 percent of the children evaluated are victims of sexual assault.
The center uses a Cortexflo during forensic medical exams to collect photographic evidence. The system allows staff to take high-quality, evidence-grade pictures and video without the need for advanced photographic skills or training. More than 600 locations in the U.S. and internationally use the Cortexflo at hospitals, child advocacy centers, clinics, and military locations.
The CAC recently purchased an Alternative Light Source (ALS) as an addition to the Cortexflo that allows for the detection of traces of saliva, sweat, urine, and other bodily fluids on a range of surfaces. This enables the Cortexflo to acquire all categories of evidence necessary to complete a full forensic medical examination.
“It is important for our staff and multidisciplinary partners to be aware of all possible physical evidence existing in these cases as that can impact criminal charges,” said Kathleen Holbrook, advocacy and community relations director at One Place. “More importantly, it allows our medical providers to reassure children that their bodies are safe and healthy.”
Because the CAC serves child victims, sometimes it can be difficult to discern how or where on the body the abuse occurred since young children are nonverbal.
“There is often limited physical evidence, specifically in cases of sexual abuse. Some of our most vulnerable population may struggle to disclose details of the abuse they have suffered due to impacts of trauma, age, or developmental level. This tool allows us to see what they may not be able to tell us about,” said Sarah Merulli, forensic medical provider at One Place.
The Cortexflo, with the addition of the ALS, allows staff to scan the entire body for potential evidence in a more efficient manner. It also permits the collection of photos during the exam so staff can document where they are collecting evidence swabs etc. In addition, images can be confidentially shared for peer review and second opinions or findings, when necessary.
The Cortexflo also utilizes a series of image contrast filters that assist in the detection of bruising and strangulation trauma.
“It really helps us to gather the evidence of abuse that may be on a child’s body but not easily visible,” said Susan Jensen, forensic medical provider at One Place. “This evidence can serve to support the child’s report of what happened and guide the direction of prosecution.”
The CAC purchased the $2,500 ALS using funds generated by the Guns n Hoses third-party fundraising event.
“My hope is that this can help bring justice differently for more cases,” Merulli said.
For more information on the One Place Child Advocacy Center, visit https://www.oneplaceonslow.org/our-work/child-advocacy-center/