The YWCA Northeastern Massachusetts – A Voice for Women & Girls

Child Advocacy Program

Butterfly, 2The YWCA Child Advocacy Project (CAP) helps children ages 12 and under to recover from the potentially devastating effects of sexual abuse. Our trained staff also supports non-offending family members and caregivers, who are considered “secondary victims.” Researchers estimate that, nationwide, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are victims of sexual abuse each year. Last year alone, YWCA CAP served nearly 90 children and secondary victims.

Who can receive help?

  • We work to help children ages newborn to 12, their families and caregivers work to regain safety, stabilize their lives, cope with the many feelings associated with abuse and begin the process of healing from trauma while taking steps to seek justice.
  • YWCA CAPT serves the following cities and towns: Andover, Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence, Merrimack, Methuen, North Andover and North Reading.
  • All services are free, confidential and available in English and Spanish.

What is Child sexual Abuse?

  • Child sexual abuse occurs when a child is used for sexual purposes by an adult or adolescent. It involves exposing a child to any sexual activity or behavior.
  • Child sexual abuse or assault is a crime.
  • Victims are often abused by a trusted adult or family member.
  • Children of all ages and backgrounds can be victims of sexual abuse

What are the signs that a child or family needs help?

Every child is different, and children who have been sexually abused may display many different behaviors. Although some children display no outward signs, every child needs help to cope with the effects of sexual assault. Common signs of sexual abuse are:

  • Unusual curiosity in or avoidance of anything considered sexual
  • Sleep problems or nightmares
  • Depression or withdrawal
  • Expressions of concern that their bodies are dirty or damaged
  • Expressions of fear that there is something wrong with their genitals or “private parts”
  • Refusal to go to school or delinquency
  • Secretiveness
  • Showing sexual molestation or sex acts in drawings, games, fantasies or play
  • Unusual aggressiveness
  • Suicidal behavior or self-injury

How can the YWCA help?

The following services are free:

  • Crisis intervention: Help is available at any hour of the day or night by calling our toll-free, 24-hour confidential hotline in English and Spanish: 1.877.509.YWCA (9922)
  • Counseling: Individual and family counseling is available free of charge to child victims and their non-offending family members and/or caregivers.
  • Support: YWCA staff will accompany the child and the family to the doctor’s office, emergency room, police, court and other important service providers. We will also work with classroom teachers to understand how sexual abuse can affect a child’s behavior and classroom participation.

How can I help?

  • Speak up: First and foremost, know the signs of child sexual abuse and be willing to speak up if you suspect it.
  • Donate: By supporting the YWCA’s annual appeal, you will help to make sure that every child and family who are victims of child sexual abuse get the support they need. Donations can be made on-line here.
  • Advocate: Urge your elected officials including legislators and school board members to support programs and services that help victims of child sexual abuse.