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Standing With Abused Keiki

When a child is physically or sexually abused, Children’s Justice Center is there to help. Now you can help the center by attending a Western-themed gala, at which one of the auction items is a football signed by Hawaii players on the Oregon Ducks team

If the walls of Children’s Justice Center at 3019 Pali Hwy. could talk, what daunting stories would they tell?

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A football signed by local Oregon Ducks players, including Marcus Mariota, DeForest Buckner, Isaac Ava, Koa Ka'ai and Bronson Yim, will be auctioned. Photo by Anthony Consillio

Would they recall the 12-year-old boy who stopped talking and going to school after sexual and physical abuse by his mother’s boyfriend? Would it lament the plight of the 13-year-old girl who ran away from home, became a drug addict and thief, and has been in and out of at least 20 different foster homes?

Since 1988, Children’s Justice Center has served as a place of hope and healing for children who are victims of sexual and physical abuse or are witnesses to crimes. Many stories are documented as part of a judicial process in criminal cases, but these are never publicly revealed because of the confidentiality of cases and the minor age of the victims or witnesses.

Yet when one visits the center and views the interview rooms with two-way windows and stealth monitoring equipment, one realizes the seriousness and importance of its service. Without this unique state judiciary facility, children who are traumatized by abuse would be subjected to forensic interviews in police stations or attorneys’ offices.

According to CJC state director Jasmine Mau-Mukai, “After a report of abuse is made to proper authorities, a child is brought to the center by a protective family member, friend or agency staff to be interviewed by specially trained professionals.

“The center provides a warm, homelike setting where they can feel safe, comfortable and supported,” she explains. “Our role is not to make a judgment on the case but to facilitate the fact-finding and investigation, so the criminal justice system and other agencies can do their work.”

Located in an old Victorian-style home in Nuuanu, the center serves 1,100 children a year ranging in age from 2 to 18. Victims come from all socioeconomic and ethnic groups.

“They often come to the center traumatized, and it is difficult talking to strangers,” Mau-Mukai acknowledges. “But children are resilient and want to be part of the solution rather than the problem.”

The state Legislature established the program in 1986 to ensure a fair and neutral process for handling reports of child sexual abuse. The intent was to protect the rights of both victims and alleged perpetrators.

There are now five centers across the state, including the Neighbor Islands and one opening soon on Molokai.

To support the work of the organization, nonprofit Friends of the Children’s Justice Center was formed three years ago to provide funds, resources and volunteers.

Supplying moral support as well as in-kind donations, Friends has been instrumental in providing tangible means for the center to do its work. Food, clothing, school supplies, gifts and stuffed animals of every size and color are among the valued contributions.

Raising awareness of the center’s work is paramount to the Friends’ objective.

Mau-Mukai cites, “Child abuse is a critical issue in our community, with increasing number of cases coming before agencies and the courts. It is one of the most under-reported and least-understood offenses.”

To corral support for and raise consciousness of the issue, Oahu Friends plan a “Kick Up Your Boots & Kick Off the Holidays” dinner-dance Saturday, Nov. 1, at 6 p.m. at The Pacific Club.

Popular DJ Tele B will spin Western and more toe-tapping music.

Guests can win prize packages including jewelry by Joseph Calderone, a Tiffany bag, grocery and restaurant gift certificates, a commemorative football signed by Hawaii players on the University of Oregon football team — try to get this one away from our avid Oregon Duck editor — and more.

“We believe every individual in Hawaii’s community has the power to impact the life of a child in a positive way,” says event co-chair Lauri Madanay. “We hope island residents will join us to help brighten the holidays and new year for Oahu’s abused children.”

Lauri Madanay, Sandi Hino and Jasmine Mau-Mukai are ready to kick up their boots Nov. 1 at the Children’s Justice Center holiday kickoff

Tickets to “Kick Up Your Boots & Kick Off the Holidays” cost $150 per person ($90 tax deductible). Proceeds directly support Children’s Justice Center of Oahu. Tables or seats may be purchased online at fcjcoahu.org, or call 445-1873.