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K.I.D.S. PARTNER AGENCY NETWORK:  1,000 AND GROWING

The Lake Area Sexual Assault Response Team (S.A.R.T.) in Osage Beach, Missouri, is officially the 1,000th organization that we have added to the K.I.D.S. network of local partner agencies and the first one that specifically addresses the needs created by forensic evidence collection.

Created in response to the increasing incidents of child sexual assault, the Lake Area S.A.R.T. provides free medical care and emotional support for the littlest victims of abuse. The reason why they reached out to K.I.D.S.? "When our victims are examined, we must take away their clothes for DNA evidence, leaving the child feeling frightened, exposed and humiliated," says Executive Director Dee Ballard. "If we can give these children clothing that is new, that fits, it will go a long way in helping them feel less like victims."

The Team (which consists of specially trained law enforcement officers, registered sexual assault/forensic nurse examiners, court-appointed child advocates and counselors from Kids Harbor Advocacy Center) looks forward to its partnership with K.I.D.S. so that they can help provide their own "kids in distressed situations" with clothing, undergarments or even a small toy to offer "a little distraction" while being examined.

While the subject matter may be disturbing, the Team believes that there is a ray of hope in the growing numbers: what was once under or never-reported is now something people are willing to address, and children are getting the support they need sooner - knowing they are believed and not to blame is key to their recovery.