Metro Vancouver’s first child protection centre opened Sunday with some rock star clout from KISS singer Gene Simmons and his family.
Sophie’s Place, named after patron Sophie Tweed-Simmons, will bring together counsellors, doctors and police under one roof in Surrey to give abused children under 12 a safe place to tell their stories.
Tweed-Simmons, 19, got involved in the project after meeting Surrey Mayor Diane Watts.
"It's really important for me to have kids have a place where adults can take them seriously and where they can express what's happened to them in a safe environment," said Tweed-Simmons.
"I have been blessed growing up in a house where I am treated as an equal and with love. The least I can do is help show children that that can be a possibility for everyone."
RCMP Insp. Janis Gray first proposed the idea of the centre to her boss, who then brought Watts onboard. The centre was constructed in an astonishing four weeks with help from more than 60 volunteers including Surrey firefighters, city businesses, and RCMP.
As she showed the brightly painted rooms that will be used for interviews, Gray explained that until now, child abuse victims had to repeat their stories over and over again to different authorities and agencies.
Having those officials co-ordinate one interview at Sophie’s Place should make that process less frightening for children.
"Now of course if we have one centre with an interdisciplinary team, they only have to tell their story once. And it's in an area they're supported," said Gray.
"We're very optimistic that this is going to have a huge impact on our convictions."
More than 1,000 children in Greater Vancouver report being sexually or physically abused every day, said Watts.
Similar programs are already used in Edmonton and the U.S. Sophie’s Place is slated to open in February.
Along with Tweed-Simmons was her famous musician father Gene Simmons, Canadian-born model mother Shannon Tweed, and a camera crew for their reality TV show.
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