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06.02.16 – Luncheon Notes

SPOKES Notes written by Tom Mathison

On a sunny early summer day in downtown Grand Rapids, the June 2 meeting of the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids was called to order by President Derek Aten at noon at the University Club, when he welcomed members and guests and announced that the June 9 meeting will feature Ken Krayer from Design West Michigan, and he June 16 meeting will feature Dan Gaydou, from MLive Media Group.

Tom Mathison led the Club in the opening song:  This is My Country, which was followed by the invocation by Carl VerBeek.

Following a buffet lunch, President Derek reconvened the meeting and announced that each member should vote for two positions on the Rotary Board of Directors.  Ballots were on the table.  Drop the ballots in a basket with John Salan at the end of the meeting.  Derek also announced that the Paul Harris Fellow drive was a success and that the Club has reached its goal for donations to the Rotary Foundation, which qualifies our club to participate in matching District grants for the coming year.  Congratulations to the Club, and special appreciation to Bob Stark for leading the effort!

President Derek introduced Matt Hylant, who introduced our guests today.  Then Chelsea Dubey gave an update on the Club’s Youth Exchange program.  We have committed to a new exchange student for 2016-2017, following a wonderful year with Paul, from Chile this year.  If any member knows someone who would be willing to serve as a host family, please contact Chelsea as the Club’s Youth Exchange Counselor at, or Lody Zwarenstyn, the District Youth Exchange Officer, or Josh, the Club’s Youth Exchange Officer.

Bruce Pienton then updated the Club on the community engagement opportunity coming up this Saturday, June 4.  We are partnering with ICCF to beautify a number of rental properties around Grand Rapids by planting flowers.  Meet at the parking lot of the ICCF at 920 Cherry at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday to participate.  Everyone is welcome, and coffee and donuts will be provided.  Everyone should be done by noon.

Randy Murphy then gave us an update on the 20th Annual Golf Outing, to be held at Blythefield Country Club on August 8.  This outing benefits STRIVE, Indian Trails Camp, and Senior Neighbors.  Randy encouraged everyone to get involved, form a foursome, or at least purchase a “Celebration package” to attend lunch and other special activities.  Ken Estelle then did an appeal for golfers and explained that we need 100 golfers.  Ken also announced a special incentive.  Teams registered and paid in full by July 1, 2016 will be entered into a special competition hole.

President Derek introduced our speakers for today, Susan Shannon, Executive Director of the Children’s Assessment Center (CAC), and Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma, who is on the CAC Board.  Sheriff Stelma began by saying that, last year, 900-1000 sexual assaults were investigated – most victims were among the most vulnerable.  60%-70% of victims go on to be predators in the future.  Stelma said the CAC was formed in 1992 by then Sheriff Dugan, Police Chief Hegerty, and Prosecutor Forsythe, and he told the story of the Girl in the Yellow Dress – “The Children’s Assessment Center is a place where there is no fear.  A place to be heard, to heal, to halt the cycle.  And it’s a place where a child can find a happy empowered future.”

Both boys and girls are involved as sexual victims.  The CAC brings unlimited services to victims by bringing all services together in one location and to be able to have the victim tell their story only once, easing the trauma of having to tell the story over and over to different agencies (medical, legal, therapy, healing, police, and Child Protective Services).

Susan then spoke about how the CAC model works.  Therapists, CPS, detectives, and CAC are all located in the same building (one of only two CAC programs in the State with services located in the same place).  This increases collaboration between agencies.

It is estimated that the CAC process saves $1,400 per case.  In 2015, CAC performed 582 forensics interviews, 118 on-site medical exams, provided support services on 1,294 cases, and provided on-site counseling for 1,070 persons.

Susan dispelled commons myths about sexual abuse:

  1. Myth:  Sexual abuse is primarily caused by strangers.  Not true:  99% of victims know their abusers.  53% of victims are under 6 years old.
  1. Kids just make up the stories. Not true.
  1. Abuse happens mostly in poor neighborhoods. Not true.  Abuse happens in every demographic.

The CAC is child-centered.  The facility features interview rooms that are very simple and plain, in order to provide no distractions for victims.  The interview rooms include a 1-way window, behind which three people observe the interview:  a detective, a rep from Child Protective Services, and a Family Advocate rep.  The goal of the process is to return the child to full health as early as possible.

Susan concluded her remarks with a video of “The Story of Alicia”, who was abused by her father’s best friend and is currently a freshman at GVSU.  It was followed by a video of Alicia’s parents.

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