By Natalie Brown, Communications Officer, Together for Girls
By Natalie Brown, Communications Officer, Together for Girls
VidaNyx is the leading cloud-based Digital Video Evidence Management solution that works to address the needs of the Child Advocacy Centers in the U.S. that help over 700,000 children survivors of abuse and neglect every year. Together for Girls featured VidaNyx as a prudent solution in the What Works to Prevent Sexual Violence Against Children Evidence Review.
When seven-year-old Lucas* was brought in a cop car to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo and Starr Counties in Texas, he was met with a team of therapists who knew he had been abused.
“Sexual abuse is one of the worst abuses that can occur to a child,” says Rosita Resmondo, Forensic Interviewer at the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) where Lucas was brought. “No matter how young they may be, these children do not forget,” she adds.
Soon after his arrival at the CAC, Lucas was given a forensic interview, one of the first steps taken by CACs when responding to a child abuse case. The interview was recorded and conducted one-on-one with Lucas in a safe space in order for the center to get information about what happened.
“We don’t want a lot of folks talking to the child and re-victimizing them,” Resmondo explains, “which is why the forensic interview is recorded, so that it can then be shared with law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, and CPS, without the need for the child to recount their story multiple times which can deepen their trauma.”
Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) are community-based, child-friendly services for children and families affected by sexual abuse or severe physical abuse. They bring together multi-disciplinary teams including child protective services (CPS) investigators, law enforcement, prosecutors, and medical and mental health professionals, to respond to child abuse cases.
Although forensic interviews are conducted in a safe and secure environment, the typical process that follows the interview, which often includes burning multiple DVDs with the recording, transporting the DVDs to the respective agencies, and manually documenting the chain of custody, can put the child’s sensitive information at risk.
“DVDs would go missing on a weekly basis,” explains Resmondo. “Oftentimes it was human error and DVDs would get lost or misplaced, but sometimes interviews would end up in the wrong hands as people try to destroy the evidence.”
Furthermore, when DVDs go missing and interviews are lost, CACs need to return to the children who were interviewed and ask them to retell their stories, which can disrupt the healing process and delay justice.
CACs around the country began recognizing the need to replace the outdated DVD distribution of forensic interviews. To respond to this need, VidaNyx was created. VidaNyx, which means “the protector of life,” is a sustainable social enterprise that provides a secure, cloud-based evidence collaboration platform for CACs to store and share forensic videos. VidaNyx supports CACs to bring justice to survivors while protecting their stories.
As Sara Boyd, CEO of VidaNyx states, “Justice should not be disrupted by things that can be solved.”
With VidaNyx, CACs no longer need to make multiple copies of forensic interviews with DVDs. Instead, they simply upload the interview to the VidaNyx portal, which is encrypted with 13 layers of security. They then provide access to that one copy of the interview through the portal to the agencies that need it.
“With the old system, after receiving the DVDs, partners would hold onto them indefinitely, which heightens the risk of something happening to the DVDs,” Boyd explains, “With VidaNyx, you can set a date that the partners need to review the interview by, and they can’t access the interview after that date. It’s more secure since you can control who has access and for how long.”
After hearing from local CACs using VidaNyx, Resmondo did some research and decided to pilot it at the center in Texas.
“We decided that based on the encryption and how easy and user-friendly it was, we would move forward with it,” Resmondo explains, “It turned out to be the most amazing thing we ever did.”
Not only were children like Lucas’s interviews in a secure place, but the center was saving valuable time with a quicker and more efficient post-interview process.
“Time is of the essence when you’re working with CPS and law enforcement,” explains Resmondo, “and it takes so much time to burn multiple DVDs, dub them, add labels, mail them out, wait for them to arrive, then track the chain of custody on a piece of paper that you need everyone to sign. VidaNyx eliminated all of that.”
With VidaNyx, Child Advocacy Centers free up time and money that can be used to focus on prevention, healing, and justice.
CACs using VidaNyx reduce their operating cost per forensic interview by up to 90% and increase their case processing speed by up to 67%, allowing them to focus more time and money on child abuse prevention, healing, and justice.
“Being able to have evidence in their hands digitally as soon as it’s ready allows law enforcement to put resources out there to secure an arrest,” explains Boyd. “Perpetrators often have multiple victims, so being able to get them out as a risk factor can potentially prevent future abuses as well.”
When crises like COVID-19 hit, many CACs experienced operations delays. Since normally information is shared with the agencies in person, limited in-person contact due to COVID-19 can cause a delay in information-sharing and even lead to arrests getting delayed.
VidaNyx has eliminated these worries by allowing CACs to continue their work as normal and respond to cases of abuse in a timely manner, helping survivors get justice as soon as possible.
“For the centers that we’ve been working with already or who came onboard during COVID, they have peace of mind knowing that they can continue sharing information with the agencies in a way that’s contact-free and immediate,” says Boyd.
When a child experiences abuse, not only does it stay with them for the rest of their life, but it affects everyone‒their families, schools, and communities.
“Children like Lucas are going to one day grow up and be in our school systems, get jobs, and have families,” explains Resmondo. “It’s important that we know how sexual abuse affects not only survivors, but everyone in the community.”
With VidaNyx, CACs are freeing up time to put towards educating communities about child abuse prevention.
“One of our missions at the CAC of Hidalgo and Starr Counties is community awareness,” explains Resmondo, who is also a trainer for Darkness to Light. “We go to public schools and give presentations on mandated reporting to help educate the community and make sure that everyone has the tools to respond to abuse.”
Child abuse and exploitation is a hidden pandemic that cannot be solved by one sector alone. In order to solve a problem of this magnitude, we need to work together and in our communities to help keep kids safe. By prioritizing prevention, healing, and justice and focusing on solutions like VidaNyx, we can respond to child abuse and exploitation in a way that centers the needs of survivors while bringing us closer to a world where all children are free from violence.