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CP Center helps abused children


CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH – Gibson County Carl Perkins Center is preparing for Child Abuse Prevention Month during April by stocking bears on their bear wall, adding more buttons to the Buttons for Bravery box and selling shirts in a fundraiser for the organization. Gathered around banners about the centers mission is (from left) GC CP Director Bett Jewell; Rachel Hill, clinical therapist; Bethany Donaldson, victim advocate; and Sarah Robbins, clinical therapist.

by ARIEL McRAE  |  Associate Editor

Child abuse in any capacity is a trauma that persists well past childhood. There is an old African proverb that states, “The ax forgets; the tree remembers,” which is interpreted to mean the person who receives the trauma will never forget what happened to them while the abuser will never remember nor be affected by all the damage they caused. It is important to remember the sentiment now that the month of April has arrived, bringing with it Child Abuse Prevention Awareness. 

The Gibson County Carl Perkins Center For the Prevention of Child Abuse has a long history of helping those affected by child abuse. The Carl Perkins Center, originally founded in Jackson, Tenn., was the first accredited child advocacy center in the state of Tenn. and the fourth accredited organization in the nation. Since its opening in 1981, the CP center’s one central mission, according to, has been to provide support to families in preventing and dealing with child abuse in West Tennessee and to help both parents and children meet the practical needs of preserving and improving the quality of family life.

In Gibson County, the CP center helps, on average, 800 adults and children per year in way one or another. In 2022, the number of children served within Gibson County was 279. There were 83 therapy referrals, 105 forensic interviews and 51 medical interventions. The lives touched by the GCCPC are met with unyielding support through their entire traumatic process, all without ever paying a dime for services. Everything from clinical therapy to victim advocacy is 100-percent free to those who need help.

Victims entering the center are able to make small choices that help them reclaim a little of the control that was stolen from them through no fault of their own. Each child is led to the bear wall and is able to help choose a friend they can hold during their journey with the center. Children are also allowed to pick a button they believe represents them to drop in to the Buttons for Bravery jar with other buttons on the shelf so they can see that they are not alone and other children have come through the center and received the help they needed.

When children are brought to the center, the goal is to ensure that child feels nothing but safe. There are cameras inside of the room where, according to GCCP center director, Bett Jewell, a child sits with a therapist and discloses the abuse from which they suffered and survived. The idea is to hopefully limit or eradicate retraumatization by only having the child tell their story once. From there, Rachel Hill, the clinical therapist working at the Humboldt office for GCCPC, is there to help the child process their emotions and find ways to help regulate the stress and involuntary reactions that will arise from triggers.

“We use a lot of tools to really help the children navigate their experience,” Hill described of their therapy techniques. “We teach a lot of coping and regulation to

PLAY THERAPY – Rachel Hill, clinical therapist, puts away toys inside one of the therapy rooms for children at the Gibson County Carl Perkins Center Humboldt location. During therapy, children can play with the toys while they learn how to regulate their emotions in regards to their trauma triggers.

help calm the child internally and externally in order to help them stabilize. We do what is called ‘processing’ and in that we are really reviewing the trauma experience. We are going over what happened and not in a way that is a very [structured, forensic] way, but in a way that helps them be present with the memory and present with the experience without deregulating.”

In the United States, one in 10 children will experience child abuse in some aspect or another, and that statistic only accounts for children who have disclosed. According to the CDC, the child abuse term encompasses physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. These four traumas, while having textbook definitions, are subjective to the child being abused. Examples under the umbrella of child abuse could include hitting, punching, kicking or burning a child. Other examples include pressuring, forcing or exposing a child to sexual acts. Children could also face name-calling, shaming and withholding love as well as having their adults fail to meet adequate care needs for the child’s physical or emotional well-being.

Jewell explained that while the center deals with the aftermath of child abuse, another main goal is to prevent it entirely. Child abuse is 100-percent preventable. In reality, there will always be people who want to feel powerful by stripping another of their power, and this mostly happens to children as they are among the least powerful and most vulnerable in society. This is where it is up to other adults to step in and speak up about abuse they might witness or believe to be happening.

Those working with children are often the first line of defense in recognizing behaviors a child is exhibiting as signs of abuse. The Gibson County Carl Perkins Center offers lessons at the school so staff members can identify children who need help. The main battle to fight in making sure people are reporting child abuse they suspect is happening is for everyone to know it is their responsibility to do so. Jewell stated most do not think it is their business or they do not want to get involved and be wrong. To her, child abuse is everyone’s business because if it is not you, then who?

“Our students and children training is an international training,” Jewell stated. “Knowledge is power—it is gaining awareness in what [constitutes] abuse and recognizing the signs. We are a mandatory report state. The mandatory to report code is written that if you have any suspicion you have to report. Any time we do a training, I always say, ‘What is it going to harm? If I call and report no one is going to know it is me. What’s the worst thing that could happen, me being wrong? That’s a good thing.’”

The Gibson County Carl Perkins Center holds multiple fundraisers throughout the year to ensure all children who need help can be helped. Currently, they are selling shirts in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month with their theme for the year. The 2023 theme, “You have the brains, heart and courage to prevent child abuse,” was inspired by the Wizard of Oz and the back of the shirts display a tiny black dog next to a yellow brick road leading to a house and a saying above it that reads, “There is no place like a safe home.”

If you would like a shirt in support of the Gibson County Carl Perkins Center and Child Abuse Prevention Month, please go to their Facebook page for the order form or call 731-784-7500.

For more information on resources for child abuse advocacy as well as how to spot the signs of an abused child, please visit

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