The phone buzzes nonstop, children gobble snacks in the waiting room, detectives flash their badges, and adults attempt to mask their concerns.
This summer, I intern at the New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center (NOCAC) of the Children’s Hospital. NOCAC provides a comprehensive approach to the investigation, intervention, and treatment of child sexual and physical abuse. I have just finished my first week of work, and I am already immersed in the dynamic environment and countless projects. The best way to describe NOCAC is “organized chaos” – patients circulate in and out of the office, detectives visit, forensic interviews take place, projects abound, and the phone always rings. Along with other interns, I participated in an orientation and then dove headfirst into work assignments. One of my major projects is to revise and help publish our latest book, Check Out the Courthouse, designed to distribute to children before they visit court. Our goal is to familiarize the children with the court experience and ease the associated stress of going to court.
My work at NOCAC is both challenging and rewarding. Unfortunately, every child who visits the center has been sexually or physically abused. Often, I entertain the kids before their exams, and it is heartbreaking to realize that someone has harmed them. Last week, a patient hugged me goodbye and mentioned that she couldn’t wait to see me again. Her goodbye lingered in my mind for days. I didn’t want to see her again. Although she had lit up the waiting room with her smile, another visit would signal that the abuse continued, and I couldn’t handle that reality. I simply couldn’t fathom that anyone would take away her bright smile.
It is moments like this one that remind me why I chose to intern at NOCAC. This summer, I hope to make a difference, however small, in these children’s lives. Whether I am bringing snacks to kids or planning a national conference, I know that I am helping to prevent child abuse and to provide a safe environment for children.