Story provided by United Way of Payne County
This article is the fifth in a series highlighting the 22 nonprofit partner agencies supported by the United Way of Payne County. The United Way is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals in Payne County by investing donated dollars in nonprofits that focus on promoting education, improving health and reducing poverty.
This week’s partner agency spotlight is The Saville Center for Child Advocacy.
Child abuse exists in Payne County, and the numbers are rising. As of July 2022, the Saville Center for Child Advocacy has already served 213 child abuse cases this year, compared to 412 total cases in 2021.
“It’s distressing to consider the impact of child abuse in our communities,” Heather Houle, Executive Director of The Saville Center for Child Advocacy, said. “Luckily, the Saville Center is here to provide child victims and their non-offending caregivers with advocacy, support and resources to help guide them through the crisis that they’re in.”
The Saville Center is a safe, child-friendly facility where forensic interviews, medical evaluations, trauma-focused counseling services and victim advocacy are provided to children involved in allegations of sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect.
“The Saville Center offers a soothing, calming, non-threatening atmosphere, in a building specifically designed to lessen a child’s fears,” Houle said. “Because all of our services are centralized, children don’t have to re-tell their story to many different agencies. Here, we can avoid further trauma to the child, or at least minimize it during investigations.”
Abuse cases are brought to The Saville Center by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services Child Protective Services. Saville’s in-house forensic interviewer conducts video-recorded, legally sound interviews, reducing the number of times a child has to tell their story. In their Medical Cottage, a nurse practitioner, a specialist in child abuse care, provides medical exams and collects evidence for documentation. Saville also provides a victim advocate for the families they serve, and partners with several mental health counselors.
“Throughout the whole investigative process, we strive to provide autonomy to our child victims, which was taken from them,” Houle said.
Saville also houses an emotional support dog named Maria.
“If the victim is young enough, Maria actually goes with the child to court and sits with them on the stand,” Houle said. “Maria is just another way we can provide comfort and support through the process.”
With the Saville Center sometimes serving the same individual on separate cases, they directly served 389 people in 2021. 184 were from Stillwater.
“We saw more children than ever before in 2021,” Houle said. “As numbers continue to grow, The Saville Center is prepared to protect, prevent and heal victims of child abuse and neglect.”
If you need to report suspected child abuse, call the 24/7 Oklahoma Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-522-3511. If the child is in imminent danger, please call 911 or local law enforcement.
The Saville Center welcomes guests to tour their facility and learn how they can prevent abuse in our communities. Those interested can contact the Saville Center at 405-377-5670.
When you donate to United Way of Payne County, you support the work of The Saville Center for Child Advocacy and 21 other nonprofits, which collectively impact more than 73,000 individuals and families each year. The United Way has served the community for more than 70 years. To learn more or donate visit www.unitedwaypaynecounty.org or call 405-377-2161.