Western Slope Center for Children helping more child victims of sexual abuse, needing to expand

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. The Western Slope Center for Children opened in 1997 as a resource center for abused children and families. The need for all of the center's services is growing exponentially, surpassing its current staffing and location capabilities.

"Law enforcement and human services bring the children here so they can get interviews and medical examinations,” said Executive Director Melissa Lytle. “We have on site family advocates that provide services and we also do therapeutic services here.”

The nonprofit is seeing more and more children walk through their doors every year.

"We are the only comprehensive child advocacy center in Mesa County,” said Lytle. “We are outgrowing this building because of the number of kids we are seeing.”

Lyle says more than 330 children passed through the doors of the center in 2015, more than the center saw the entire year of 2013.

"We are projecting seeing over 400 children this year, so there’s definitely a growing need in our community and with that we see a growing need for the services that we can provide for child victims and their families,” said Lytle.

Lytle believes the center is seeing more children coming through their doors, not because of more cases of sexual abuse, but because children are more comfortable with reporting sexual abuse .

More sexual assault exams, she says, could be because of a bill passed in 2008 that says anyone has the right to a sexual exam despite their willingness or desire to report the crime to law enforcement.

Along with a new building, the six-employee nonprofit, is in need of more employees – in particular sexual assault examiners.

" As sexual assault examiners, we do comprehensive exams that include a head to toe assessment and history,” said SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Coordinator Danielle Yahn. “We also provide referrals and resources to make sure they have somewhere that's safe to be.”

The center held a hiring event Tuesday night hoping to gain interest among nurses to expand the SANE program.

“Many people are probably willing to see the aftermath of it, which is super hard,” said CMU nursing student Meredith Wirtz who is interested in becoming a SANE. “In the profession I’m going into, we are taught to care, and we initially do it because it’s who we are. I think that if I was able to help someone who has so much life ahead of them ease some of the pain they've been through, that would be awesome.”

The Western Slope Center for Children is holding two fundraisers this Saturday, October 10th. A golf tournament starts at Tiara Rado at 8:00 a.m. and a black light 5K run at Canyon View Park at 5:00 p.m.