HARRISBURG— The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape will present its 2015 Vision of Hope Award to Joan Mills of A Child’s Place at Mercy, March 28 at the Vision of Hope Gala & Auction at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey.
The Vision of Hope Award is presented annually to recognize those who show a commitment to protecting children through violence prevention and intervention and ensures the safety of children through increasing awareness, strengthening policies or creating campaigns that promote healthy families and communities.
“Joan’s heart and soul is dedicated to improving the lives of children devastated by the effects of child sexual abuse” PCAR CEO Delilah Rumburg said. “She’s gracefully led A Child’s Place at Mercy where thousands of children have received help, advocated for policy change and worked to establish community partnerships to help prevent sexual abuse.”
For nearly three decades Mills has worked to establish child-centered and trauma-informed interventions and treatment services at A Child’s Place at Mercy while promoting collaboration between organizations such as children advocacy centers and rape crisis centers.
She also has advocated for policy changes and improvements to the state child protection policy and practices.
“I am honored and humbled to receive this award, especially after seeing all the past recipients,” Mills said. “The Vision of Hope Award to me represents recognition of the thousands of victims' cases I have been involved with over the past several decades; I see their eyes still. I accept this award for them—all of them. Being part of the systemic changes in the response to evaluating and investigating child abuse cases that have taken place in our Commonwealth over 27 years has been quite dramatic and awe inspiring.”
One example is the use of forensic interviews of child victims. Mills advocated that this would reduce the trauma for a child during trial while providing evidence to the jury in the child’s own words. While this doesn’t preclude the child from testifying during the trial, the child’s exposure to trauma and court room tactics may be limited by the opportunity to rely on a high quality forensic interview.
In a child sexual abuse case last July in Westmoreland County assistant district attorney cited the use of the forensic interview as the difference in the jury returning a guilty verdict.
It is just one way Mills has made a difference.
Founded in 1975, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape advocates for the rights and needs of sexual assault victims and works to end sexual violence. PCAR partners with a network of rape crisis programs to bri ng help, hope and healing around issues of sexual violence to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.