The Will County Children’s Advocacy Center recognized several honorees Wednesday night for their work on behalf of abused children.
The CAC recognized more than a dozen individuals and groups for their service, philanthropy and achievements. The event’s featured speaker was Scott Cross, a survivor of sexual abuse as a child, who argued for the importance of children’s advocacy centers and the services they provide.
Cross was abused as a teenager about 40 years ago by his wrestling coach and teacher, Dennis Hastert, who went on to become the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
About three years ago, Cross went public with his story. In doing so, he helped advocate for the state law that repealed the statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes against minors.
While Cross praised the work that centers do for child victims and their families, he said it was still a sad reality that such services are needed.
“You have to have avenues for people to have help,” Cross said.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow established the Will County CAC in 1995 to provide services for victims and their families, including counseling, medical exams and legal advocacy.
The center also provides local law enforcement with vital assistance, especially because police departments might need specialized experts to perform duties such as child-sensitive interviews, which could be important for prosecution.
“We have [those services] now, and we don’t ever want to go back,” Glasgow said.
Glasgow recently presented data to the Will County Board showing that the number of children the Will County CAC serves annually has risen over the years, from about 300 a decade ago to 665 in 2018.
Still, Cross said, it remains a challenge for survivors to tell others that they were abused. Since he has gone public with his story, he said the response from others has been “overwhelming.” He said he’s received letters and phone calls from people who have survived abuse who had never told anyone else.
Cross said he didn’t want to be in the spotlight because of his story, but he wanted to share it to be a voice for other survivors.
“Don’t be afraid to come out,” Cross said. “You will be believed.”