Near Record Number of Child Abuse and Sexual Violence Cases Seen By Missoula First Step
First Step Resource Center in Missoula has been helping to offer medical attention to child abuse and sexual assault victims for fifteen years, but Clinical Supervisor Mary Pat Hansen says that the number of cases handled by First Step in 2015 will likely break Missoula records this year.
"For the past several years, we've had about 400 clients a year: that includes both the adults we serve, and the kids we serve," Hansen said. "About 80 percent of what we do is children and about 20 percent of what we see are adults, but this year, our volume is up a little bit, and we are probably going to be just under 500."
Despite an uptick in the number of cases. Hansen says she thinks the high numbers are actually not because of an increase in criminal activity.
"I think that we are seeing an increase this year, based on the good work that the professionals in our community are doing," Hansen said. "We realize the value of working together. We realize that it is best practice to do this as a team, and not to individually investigate or respond to child abuse or sexual violence. I don't think [the increase] is because of an increase in actual violence or child abuse, I think it is reflective of us, doing a better job and working together."
Cases come to First Step from a variety of sources, including local hospitals and the police, the goal is that cases of abuse and sexual violence will make it to First Step no matter where they might enter the system.
Hansen says that less than half of the cases handled by First Step actually lead to a conviction, because of the difficult nature of the crimes involved. Often, there is just not enough evidence available. When asked what the most common age of a patient at First Step was, Hansen said she wasn’t sure off hand, but likely in the six to ten-year-old range.