A Lifeline for the Innocent

by | Feb 2024

SITTING AT 104 North Spring St., this unassuming building is more than just bricks and mortar; it’s a haven. The Children’s Advocacy Center in Coffee County is a sanctuary where an unyielding sense of hope meets the dark shadows of trauma. 

Ivy Petty, the interim director, and the entire organization welcome children all over the community with a warm smile and a steely resolve, a combination born out of years spent advocating for the most vulnerable among us. Her journey with the center began in 2009 when she joined the board of directors, a role that eventually led her to this position.

Petty takes us on a journey in time, narrating the center’s humble beginnings. 

“Church Women United saw a need for a Children’s Advocacy Center in our community. They got together in November of 2004 with under $20 to start,” she said.

The center’s mission revolves around serving children who are victims of severe sexual abuse through education, prevention, and intervention. 

Fast forward to 2023, and the center proudly stands as the new owner of its building, a forever home built on the foundation of compassion and community support. 

“We currently are the new owners of this building, and I say new because we have paid it off. So we have a forever home at 104 North Spring St.,” Petty explained. 

The center’s walls have witnessed countless stories of resilience and healing. In 2022 alone, the center received 300 referrals, a staggering number that reflects the harsh reality many children face. Out of these, 175 children underwent forensic interviews, a crucial step in providing them with a voice without forcing them to relive their trauma in a courtroom setting. 

Inside this haven, a team of dedicated professionals works tirelessly. Rachel, the forensic interviewer, takes center stage during critical moments, conducting interviews that serve as a lifeline for the children entangled in the web of trauma. 

Petty described the process with a mix of empathy and determination. 

“It is recorded. So should it go to court, it will be admissible in a court of law as evidence, and the child will not have to testify again.” 

But it’s not just about legalities; it’s about sparing these young souls the agony of reliving their trauma.

“The child has already been traumatized. Why are we going to make them relive that trauma all over again, especially if their attacker is present in the courtroom?”

The center extends its arms in various ways, offering free mental health services and on-site medical care. Kim, a trauma-focused therapist, makes the journey from Ashland City every week to be a passionate guide for healing for these children. The center collaborates with partners like Our Kids from Nashville to ensure comprehensive medical support, sparing families the hardship of navigating distant cities for crucial services.

Challenges lurk in the corridors of compassion, the chief among them being funding. Petty acknowledges the uphill battle.

“Awareness is huge, and really it goes back to funding because even though Coffee County is quite large, we are a small community, and every nonprofit is vying for the same dollar,” she explains.

The center’s annual fundraising event, scheduled for April 25, 2024, at The Atlantic in Tullahoma, beckons the community to contribute. Whether through ticket purchases, donating auction items, or providing essential supplies, every contribution is a lifeline for the center.

“We do not charge any families for any of our services. And that’s why fundraising is so important.” 

Petty’s sentiments echo the importance of community support. The power lies in the servitude of this close-knit community. Everyone has the power to make a difference in the lives of these children and their families with small acts of kindness and generosity. 

The Children’s Advocacy Center isn’t just a building but a symbol of resilience, community support, and unyielding hope for those who need it the most. GN

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