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The Spaces That Can Ease Childhood Trauma

Children’s Advocacy Centers make sure kids only have to tell their story of abuse once.
A child draws as part of a therapy program designed to help kids deal with trauma.
A child draws as part of a therapy program designed to help kids deal with trauma. Hidajet Delic/AP

On a recent visit to Safe Shores, a Washington, D.C., center that supports victims of child abuse, executive director Michele Booth Cole told me about a 10-year-old girl who came to the center after her father sexually abused her.

During her first five therapy sessions, the girl didn’t speak at all. In the sixth session, she began to use a sand tray—in which children use toy figures to create scenes. The first scene she created showed her alone and isolated, with a bridge separating her from a cluster of adults. After making the tableau, the girl began to speak, talking for an hour and a half with the therapist.