First lady of Arkansas Susan Hutchinson visited the Texarkana Children's Advocacy Center Monday afternoon. She toured the facility and spoke to people who attended the event about the importance of the work done at the center.
"What we do here truly helps," Hutchinson said. "It's real important we get the word out. This hurt, pain and atrocity is so under the radar people don't even now to look for it."
The Texarkana Children's Advocacy Center investigates child abuse cases. It also offers trauma counseling and medical exams when needed. Approximately 90 percent of the cases they help investigate involve sexual abuse.
"You think 'What person is going to hurt a child?' but they're out there. It's unimaginable the things these interviewers are hearing. It's awful," Hutchinson said.
Without early intervention and counseling, kids who are sexually abused often continue the cycle by becoming abusers themselves or the abuse can manifest itself in other areas of their life including low self-esteem, personal relationships and more, she said.
"When you intervene early on to redirect and and begin healing from the inside out, you've redirected their lives," Hutchinson said. "It has lasting effects, terrible effects on society. It's much, much better if we address this early on. I so wish I could give you a profile of who to look out for but there's no profile. I call them wolves in sheep's clothing."
Hutchinson has long been an advocate for children and spent several years on the board of the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County, one of 16 non-profit advocacy centers around the state that work with abused children. She is a big supporter of establishing CACs in areas of the state that are lacking one.
"I've worked on trying to get these centers in different areas. The children are everywhere and wherever they are, the need is there. (This affects) One out of four girls and one out of six boys," Hutchinson said.
Brandy Eldridge, executive director of CASA for Children and the Texarkana Children's Advocacy Center, introduced Hutchinson.
"Susan Hutchinson was an educator who spent her time on the boards of CACs advocating for kids before anyone was governor," Eldridge said. "This is something they believe in. They're advocates for us. She's spending time this year making sure more people know what we do and that it's free."
"One of the reasons we're excited you're here today is because it takes a village. We serve 10 counties in Texas and Arkansas. Our staff here hears stories every day no kid should have to go through," Eldridge said. "Last year (we) helped over 1,100 kids. I want to say 'Thank you' to the staff. I appreciate everything you do all day long."