An internationally recognized expert in child abuse and sexual assault investigations will identify ways to help children in their most critical time of need in a free seminar from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday at Missouri Southern State University’s North End Zone Facility, 3950 E. Newman Road.

Russell Strand will be leading the presentation, “Applying Trauma Informed Investigations: Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence,” for professionals and investigators. Strand is also known for his expertise in domestic violence intervention, human trafficking, policing and culture change.

Missouri Southern’s department of social work and the Children’s Center of Southwest Missouri are working in partnership to sponsor the training seminar. The Children’s Center was founded in 1996, providing assistance services to sexually abused and physically abused children, and their families. The advocacy center aims for children to be examined and questioned only once during an abusive incident rather than multiple times.

“That model has been really remarkably successful in two ways — it reduces the times a child has to repeat his/her story, and secondly, it has helped with prosecuting the perpetrators of severe child abuse or sexual abuse,” said Renee White, associate professor in the department of social work at MSSU. “The model is really a national model, and we’re very lucky to have our Children’s Center here in town. I remember when we didn’t, and we didn’t have much prosecution of childhood abuse.”

Aryn Crawford, community outreach coordinator for the Children’s Center of Southwest Missouri, said sizable turnout is expected, especially because the center serves 12 counties within the region. Educational credits will be offered to law enforcement officers who attend.

“Strand is going to give a talk this week about applying trauma-informed practices in the investigation of sexual assault and child sexual abuse,” she said. “Our hope is that he’ll focus on what we can do as multidisciplinary team to make sure that our investigations are victim centered and trauma focused, so that we’re doing the most good that we can without causing any harm or secondary trauma.”

White, who has been a professional social worker for over three decades, said the presentation will also highlight different aspects of trauma that adults need to keep in mind when working with children who have been sexually abused or assaulted.

“Maybe one of the first things to think about is the environment, and if you’ve never been in a courtroom, how scary a courtroom might be for a small child to have to testify,” she said. “It might be thinking about the way adults stand over small children when they’re talking to them, which can be intimidating and traumatic. I think there are a variety of techniques that we can learn from Mr. Strand on Thursday that are really about different cues, if you will, so we’re not re-injuring a child who’s already been injured by an adult.”

Anyone wishing to attend the event can email Crawford at acrawford@childrens-center.org.

News reporter

Kimberly Barker is a news reporter for The Globe who covers Northeast Oklahoma, Southeast Kansas, as well as Carl Junction and Webb City.

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