STILLWATER — A 65-year-old white house with black shutters and a bright red door sits behind a small garden next to a busy street. It’s within the walls of this house that children find peace from the abuse they have faced.
The Saville Center was founded in 1998 by a group of Payne County residents who saw a need for one defined place for children to go when they have been abused.
Brandi White, the executive director for The Saville Center, left college with a teaching degree but said she was looking for something different.
“I think when people get in this field, it’s so completely rewarding and challenging,” White said. “Helping people is not something you get bored of doing.”
In an interview, White spoke about The Saville Center’s efforts to help children have a safe environment to cope with trauma from being abused. This is an edited transcript.
Q: How did The Saville Center form?
A: We actually had a group of citizens here in Payne County who got on a bus and took a tour around the county to see all of the different places a child with allegations of child abuse would have to go through. So, they would have to go to the district attorney’s office, the Department of Human Services, the police station and the ER. The trip was to bring awareness to a system that was causing trauma to children who are already in a traumatic situation.
The citizens then decided to form a 501(c)3 nonprofit child advocacy center with the mission to reduce the trauma of abused children. Now, if there’s a report made, the child comes here for a forensic interview and medical exam. We have counselors on site and a victim advocate who helps them through the court process as well as the law enforcement and caseworkers who come to the center to interact with the child. So, we bring all of those services to one place.
Q: What is the age range for children who come to The Saville Center?
A: We see children from age 3 to 17. The majority are school-aged kids, 4 to 12. We see about 60 percent female and 40 percent male, which has been pretty consistent during the past 10 years.
Q: What process do families go through when coming to The Saville Center?
A: There has to be an open investigation, either through law enforcement or the Department of Human Services. If a family does show up on our door, what we usually do is sit down with them and make the referral together and make sure we get a case open.
On staff, we have a forensic interview specialist, and her job is to talk to kids about the allegations. We video record their conversation, so the child only has to go through the story one time. If the child discloses child sexual abuse, we will have our nurse give a sexual assault nurse examination, which is a specialized medical exam. Then, they will meet with our victim advocate, who will go through the next steps and follow up with that family for weeks or months to make sure they’re staying on track. We also have a counselor on site who will do an intake session with the child to see if there needs to be ongoing counseling such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, which is kind of the gold standard for kids who experience trauma.
Q: What types of programs do you have within the Stillwater community?
A: We have a prevention program where we go out into the community and do awareness campaigns and training. Maybe we’ll have a booth at a health fair or have training for teachers or have a book drive. We do an event where we give books to babies who were born in our local hospital. So, we do a lot of community building for families with small children in our community, too.
At a glance
To learn more
For more information about The Saville Center or for more information on child abuse, go to www.savillecenter.org.
By the numbers
According to a 2013 report from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services:
•128,024 children were alleged to be victims of abuse and neglect.
•11,418 children were substantiated to be victims of child abuse and neglect.
•10,233 children were in custody at the end of the fiscal year.
Department of Human Services