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Abuse and violence against children rising in North Okanagan

Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre in Vernon raising awareness during Victims and Survivors of Crime Week 2024

Victims of child abuse and sexual assault are being reminded that there is help available.

Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre is urging North Okanagan residents to learn more about its services during Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, May 12 to 18.

As part of its awareness campaign, Oak Centre has hung banners in downtown Vernon to encourage people to learn more about its services.

“Children and youth can visit Oak Centre to provide information to police and social workers in a comfortable, child-friendly environment,” said Brooke McLardy, Oak Centre manager. “This eliminates the need to visit various agencies and offices to repeat their experience, making the reporting process more straightforward and preventing additional trauma for victims.”

Led by Archway Society for Domestic Peace, the Oak Centre, a local non-profit organization, provides a secure and welcoming space for those 18 and under who have experienced or witnessed abuse or violence.

“Once a child, youth, or family is connected with Oak Centre, the team collaborates with all relevant organizations to ensure that the child and family receive the support they need.”

Abuse and violence against children and youth can take various forms, including physical, sexual, emotional abuse, or neglect, which can be perpetrated by adults or peers.

It is a significant societal issue and occurs more frequently than people realize, with one in three children having experienced abuse before the age of 15, according to the Oak Centre.

Over the past eight years, Oak Centre has supported 1,166 children and youth. In 2023, it witnessed a 57 per cent increase in service over the previous year, with 137 new client intakes of children and youth.

The majority of the clients (53 per cent) are between the ages of 11 and 18, while 40 per cent are aged between zero and 10.

Child protection workers and the police recorded 107 interviews, and the Centre’s Accredited Facility Dog, Cirque, supported children and youth in 131 interviews, meetings, and court proceedings.

Additionally, online sexual violence is on the rise, with children being victimized by luring, sextortion, and non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

The centre says about 60 per cent of police-reported crimes each year involve children and youth under 18. Therefore more and more young victims and witnesses of crime are being called upon to testify about offences they experienced or witnessed.

This can be a stressful experience, especially for children and youth, who need protection and specialized support to prevent further re-victimization within the legal system.

This is where Oak Centre comes in.

During legal proceeding snd collaborating with other services for support, personalized assistance is provided.

The centre also provides crisis support and referrals to community services, regardless of the court outcome or charges.

“Victimization of children and young people has serious negative consequences that affect everyone in the community,” said McLardy. “A response and prevention model that intervenes immediately after trauma can prevent long-term negative outcomes for victims and save communities from the resulting social and health issues.”

If you or someone you know under 18 needs help, Oak Child and Youth Advocacy Centre is available at or call 778-475-2920.

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