Spotlight on Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy and Issues of Abuse in Children

Posted by Kate Spears on

Join WCTE’s Ready To Learn Host Cindy Putman and her special co-host Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Jennifer Wilkerson as they discuss a very serious issue, sexual abuse of children. They will also discuss some of the local programs that are in place to help children and families navigate this journey.

In the studio with them for this week's radio show is a very special canine guest, Murch. Murch is a Lab retriever mix who is 5 years old. He was trained and raised by the organization Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships.

Murch isn't just your ordinary pooch. His training includes his being able to respond to commands such as stand, and visit when he is released to socialize with children. Without permission, Murch stays in a controlled position. 

Murch provides moral support for children who have experienced abuse and trauma. Just recently he visited with five children and helped them feel at ease while sharing traumatic stories about their experiences. Murch even goes to court and sits in the stand with kids while they testify. 

If it surprises you that this type of canine companion would have a need in the Upper Cumberland, let us enlighten you a bit. 

Every hour of every day, there is an allegation of child abuse in Tennessee. Not just limited to certain areas or regions, child abuse is a problem in every county and community across Tennessee.

Child sexual abuse is defined as any sexual contact or activity with a child when consent is not or cannot be given. It can range from obscene phone calls to having a child see sexual activity to touching a child’s private parts to sexual intercourse.

Here are some important facts to consider: 

  • A child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds in the U.S. 

  • More than 3 million children are subjects of at least one child abuse case each year. 

  • 1 in 10 (1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys) children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. 

  • The median age for reported abuse is nine years old. 

  • 90% of perpetrators are individuals the child knows. 

  • In 2013, it was estimated that more than 1,500 children died from abuse and neglect. 

  • 1 in 5 youth, ages 10 to 17, receives sexual solicitation or is approached online. 

  • Only one third of households with internet access protect their children with filtering or blocking software. 

Check out this site to see more stats about this serious issue in our state.

Every person in TN is called a Mandated Reporter of child abuse. Tennessee’s mandatory reporting law imposes different requirements depending on the type of abuse. For more information check out this link

What can you do if you suspect a child you know is being abused? 

Call the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453 to be connected with a trained volunteer. Childhelp Hotline crisis counselors can’t make the report for you, but they can walk you through the process and let you know what to expect.

The Need Is Real:

National statistics reveal that 1 in 10 children will experience some form of sexual abuse by age 18, and many cases will never be reported. Most children are sexually abused by someone they know and trust. 50 percent of the more than 900 children examined annually by the Our Kids program in Nashville, Tennessee are seven years of age and younger. This is a parterning agency that does CAS medical exams on site, including in Cookeville (click here for more info). 

For even more information about this issue, visit

To get in touch with the Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy Center and other area professionals working to help kids who have been abused, see the info below: 

750 East Spring Street, Suite A
Cookeville, TN 38501
Phone: (931) 854-0115

*Putnam County, 13th Judicial District Staff

Executive Director: Jennifer Wilkerson
Mental Health/Therapist: Isha Chaney
Forensic Interviewer: Kelley Garrison

Family Advocate: Vicki Hargis and Morgan Adams

Counties Served

Putnam, DeKalb, White, Overton, Cumberland, Clay, Pickett

You can find the Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy Center on Facebook at

A private non profit 501 c3, the CAC provides services to children who have been victims of abuse through education, prevention and intervention.

The Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy Center provides many different services for the child victims and their non-offending family members. Its advocates establish a relationship with families to provide support and walk them through the judicial process. Since Court can be a scary place for kids, CAC Advocates prepare children for court and educate them about the judicial process.

Visit PBS Parents to find information about helping kids deal with trauma, including this article.


Tune in each Saturday morning at 9:30 for the WCTE Get Ready To Learn Radio Show, with host Cindy Putman on Zimmer Broadcasting's The HUB 107.7 FM and 1400 AM. 

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Topics are listed below:

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