Over the past 20 years, Stepping Stone has helped thousands of children tell their story and navigate the court process.
In 2012, Brooke Woods' life took an unexpected turn.
Then a teacher in the Dublin community, she took her turn on jury duty, assigned to a trial that required a child to testify in a sexual assault case. Hearing that young child tell his story profoundly changed her, leading her to a new career helping those in the same situation.
"It just really touched me when the child got up there and told his story," says Brooke, executive director of Stepping Stone Child Advocacy and Sexual Assault Center in Dublin. "The Lord called me into this type of work. I saw how important it can be to help a child like this."
The 20-year-old Center, which provides services to adults and children in the Dublin and Oconee Judicial Circuit, has provided a safe place for thousands of children who have been sexually or physically abused or who have witnessed violence. Its team of professionals strives to lessen the trauma by providing evaluation in a safe, caring environment.
The Center is a child-friendly environment, a home equipped with comfortable furnishings and a playroom. With the availability of evaluations and medical exams at Stepping Stone, children can avoid the stressful environment of a police station or hospital.
Stepping Stone's services include victim advocacy, and advocates follow a child throughout the whole court process — a process that can take years. They help the child and their family by referring counselors, explaining the trial process, and touring the courthouse beforehand.
"People think this doesn't happen in small communities, but it does." says Brooke. "The children who tell their stories are heroes, helping someone else have the courage to tell their story, too."
Last year, Stepping Stone became a dual center to serve both children and adults. It also provides community awareness around abuse and wellness programs. All the programs provided by Stepping Stone are free, and the nonprofit is funded through state and federal grants and individual donations.
Stepping Stone hopes to expand their counseling services in the future, and reach more children through community education programs.
"It's very emotional work, and the day-to-day can be a heavy load as you hear these stories," says Brooke. "Yet you can see it on a child's face once they release their story and get it off their shoulders. That's powerful."
Learn more at SteppingStoneDublin.com.
About Circle & Shield
Cingo means to surround and secure — to protect. That's what we do. And we have a lot of respect for those who take it upon themselves to make protection a part of what they do, too. That's why we've launched Circle & Shield, our award to a member of the community who helps make the world a better place, a safer place.
Click here to nominate someone for Cingo's Circle & Shield. We'll do the rest.
About Cingo: Cingo provides home protection services throughout Georgia and South Carolina, including Atlanta, Augusta, Charleston, Douglas, Dublin, Milledgeville, Savannah, Vidalia, Waycross and all points in between. Cingo was named a Best Place to Work in Georgia by Georgia Trend Magazine and listed as a National Best & Brightest Company to Work For. Learn more at www.cingohome.com.