DAWSON, GA (WALB) - When a child tells someone they have been hurt, two things should happen. First, the Division of Family and Child Services is called in to immediately protect the child. Second, an investigation starts.
A key part of that investigation requires a trained professional sitting down with the child in an environment that feels secure so that the child will tell them what happened.
The new Pataula Center for Children Witness Room, housed inside Dawson's small police department is paid for and put together by police and volunteers.
"It's a valuable, valuable asset when it comes to prosecuting crimes against children, whether it's molestation or abuse, at the center of that is a small child," said Pataula Circuit ADA Ron Smith.
A small child who has seen something terrible or been the victim of a crime, comes to the center.
"My job is to go in and speak with the child and make them feel comfortable enough to tell about the events they had to endure," said Lt. Angela Blackmon with the Dawson Police Department.
Blackmon is one of only two trained forensic child interviewers in the seven-county Pataula Circuit.
As Blackmon uses tools to have children show her what happened to them, a team can watch in another room, take notes and gather critical evidence.
"The kids will remember a lot of that but it gets to where you don't want to talk about it and so we record their statement where they don't have to relive the trauma every time they tell it," said Pataula Center for Children Director Julia Houston.
The stories the children tell, Pataula Circuit prosecutor Ron Smith said is the most compelling evidence a jury will hear.
"It's probably the best tool along with a SANE exam in molestation cases that the prosecution has," said Smith.
In September, seven child interviews were conducted at the Pataula Center for Children's main office in Blakely.
The child interview rooms at the Dawson branch still need some final touches, including curtains, blinds and a couple comfy chairs.
If you'd like to help visit the the Pataula Center for Children website.