The CUW Psychology Department hosted a Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Conference at Concordia on Wednesday, April 19.

An idea that was sparked more than three years ago finally came to fruition this week.

Over 300 CUW students and community members joined together on Wednesday for an all-day Child Abuse and Sexual Exploitation Conference on campus. The event featured several speakers, including individuals who specialize in child advocacy in the Milwaukee area and beyond.

Senior AnnaLyssia Abela spearheaded the day’s events as part of her senior capstone project. Abela is a psychology and social work double major who will graduate next month. She said the conference has been years in the making.  

“We had this conference all planned during my freshman year, but then COVID hit and we were forced to cancel,” Abela said. “For the last few years, it’s always been in the back of my head to bring it back.”

The day’s speakers included:

  • Jen Marr | Author and Founder/CEO of Inspiring Comfort
  • Heidi Kilbourn | Forensic Interviewer with Lakeshore Regional Child Advocacy Center
  • Jason Moertl | School Resource Office with the Mequon Police Department
  • Miriam Falk | Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General
  • Amanda Didier | Executive Director of Lakeshore Regional Child Advocacy Center

Motivation for the conference

Abela felt compelled to revisit the topic on behalf of her fellow classmates, individuals who will no doubt encounter child abuse and exploitation in their future careers. Of the 300 people who were in the audience, about three-quarters of them were CUW students majoring in psychology, social work, or justice and public policy.

The remainder of the attendees were community professionals, law enforcement officers or representatives from local advocacy centers. Abela said the invite to these community partners was deliberate in order to give CUW students an opportunity to make connections with individuals who could support them in their future careers.

“It’s really important for our professional careers,” said Abela. “Having the skills to try and combat this is something that all of us are probably lacking right now.”

A show of warmth

In addition to the conference, psychology students came together this semester to extend care to the children served at Lakeshore Regional Child Advocacy Center. The Saukville-based non-profit serves children and families by providing a comprehensive, trauma-informed response to child abuse.

CUW students made or donated upwards of 300 blankets this semester. Abela and other psych majors presented the blankets to Center representatives on Thursday.

“This year, as the Psych Club president, I wanted to bring that service piece back,” Abela said. “We hope the children who receive these blankets will feel our care.”

Want in?

The mission of the psychology program at CUW is to increase the awareness of the boundaries and applications of psychology, foster intellectual development and problem solving, and encourage students to serve others within the context of Christian faith. The psychology program is committed to cultivating multicultural awareness and appreciation for the magnificence of God viewed through human diversity. The program prepares students to pursue helping professions and/or graduate study.