“Two Boy Scouts are part of a community effort to make a horrible experience a little less traumatizing for a child.
Paul Williams and Thomas Bowen are James Monroe High School students and members of Boy Scout Troop 165 in Fredericksburg.
For their Eagle Scout projects, the 17-year-olds helped paint and furnish rooms in the Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center.
That’s a new facility in Massaponax, where sexually abused children will be examined in a child-friendly environment.
Instead of having to recount their abuse over and over to investigators and prosecutors, the children will tell their stories only once, to a trained interviewer.
Others professionals will be in an adjoining room and watch through closed-circuit television. If they have questions of the child, they can ask the interviewer–who’ll wear an earphone.
When the children aren’t being examined or interviewed, they’ll be able to read books or play video games in the rooms the Scouts designed.
Paul and Thomas heard about the center from their mothers, Angela Williams and Teri McNally, who work with the Community Foundation of the Rappahannock River Region.
The Scouts didn’t know much about a child advocacy center, but it didn’t take them long to learn.
“They did their homework,” said Gail Perkins, a forensics nurse who will examine abused children. “They did a lot of studying, and they asked a lot of questions.”
The young men visited a similar center in Richmond and asked workers what equipment or materials they recommended.
At the top of the list was anatomically correct dolls. When children can’t find the words to tell what happened, they use the dolls, Paul’s mother said.
So, the Scouts wrote and won a $2,427 grant to buy the dolls, which come in sets of two parents and a child.
Then, Paul and Thomas researched what kind of books would be appropriate for younger children. They stocked a colorful shelf with tales about a raccoon who didn’t know what to do after he’d witnessed something horrible, along with a story about a child who was going to a new foster home.
Both set up wish lists on Amazon.com and asked friends, relatives and church members if they’d like to contribute.
Yesterday, the Scouts assembled tables and chairs, easels and storage units for the rooms.
As the Scouts spread word of their project, other organizations did their part. The Mary Washington Hospital Foundation paid for forensic equipment. A grant from the Virginia Department of Social Services covered operational costs.
Carpenters from the Silver Cos. renovated the space, and two artists volunteered to paint murals.
Stephanie Bingham and Jayme Bauguess both went through the same kind of ordeal as the children the center will serve. They’ve given every weekend since mid-January–and countless paint supplies–to create an underwater scene in one room and a tropical paradise in another.
Often, the Scouts and artists worked together or were in the center at the same time.
“We saw a lot of caring, considerate teenagers,” Bauguess said. “I’ve never met anyone like them.”
The center’s board of directors was moved by the Scouts’ dedication as well. They presented certificates–and hugs–to the young men yesterday.
“I can’t think of a better Eagle Scout project than this one,” said LaBravia Jenkins, Fredericksburg’s commonwealth’s attorney and president of the center’s board. “This center will be here, helping children, long after you’ve grown up and left the area.”