Wynona’s House, Essex County Child Advocacy Center, Hosts Child Abuse Training and Workshops in 2022: Free Metaverse-Focused, Multi-Disciplinary Team Response Training Event


Wynona’s House, Essex County Child Advocacy Center, Hosts Child Abuse Training and Workshops in 2022: Free Metaverse-Focused, Multi-Disciplinary Team Response Training Event
Featuring internationally recognized child abuse expert Michael Johnson,
Specialist in investigation, detection and prevention of abuse efforts

NEWARK – October 11, 2022 – Wynona’s House Child Advocacy Center has proudly presented its 2022 Child Abuse Trainings and Workshops, titled “Child Safety at the Dawn of the Metaverse – Are We Ready for This New Frontier?” which consists of two training events. The first event took place at Montclair State University on October 11, 2022 and aimed to improve collaborative responses to the emerging threat of child victimization in virtual environments, such as metaverses. Even though metaverses may be virtual, the impact is real. The workshops focused on improving the skills of Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) and Multidisciplinary Teams (MDTs) to improve collaborative response and delivery of a range of services, including medical and mental health, to child victims of virtual environments as well as current and evolving laws, strategies and practices to help protect children online and keep them safe. This training offered 4.5 continuing education credits. Guests of honor and speakers included:

  • Michael Johnson, internationally recognized specialist in child abuse
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation, Victim Services Division, Child Victim Services Unit Forensic Child Interview Specialist Maggie Sweeney, MSW, LSW
  • Metro Regional Diagnostic & Treatment Center, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Dr. Karyn C. Smarz
  • William Paterson University, PsyD Program Director of Clinical Education and New Jersey Psychological Association Executive Board Member, Dr. Aileen Torres

The training topics provided valuable information to medical and mental health professionals, law enforcement professionals, social workers, educators, advocates and child protection workers. In-person attendees also had the opportunity to try out a virtual reality headset to better understand the Metaverses. Event details are available at www.wynonashouse.org/events/2022-trainings-and-workshops-on-child-maltreatment. The next event in this training series will be offered on November 14, 2022. Wynona’s House will be the first to air the documentary “Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic” in the tri-state area. The film is “an investigation into the world of online grooming and sextortion – a current reality for one in seven children online”. Watch the trailer and learn more about www.sextortionfilm.com.

“Each year we have the opportunity to educate our communities about emerging threats to child wellbeing and the latest developments in child advocacy,” said Dominic Prophete, CEO of Wynona’s House, Advocacy Center Essex County children. “Threats to children on the Internet have evolved to now include threats in the metaverse, and child protection advocates must evolve as well. Participants, and even members of our own team, noticed how being able to come together and share information through our annual child abuse trainings and workshops is essential.”

Wynona’s House vision for these trainings is to create a platform to raise awareness about the epidemic of child abuse and neglect in our country. The mission is to educate the community on the MDT approach and the innovative and effective best practices of CACs. The common goal is that children are supported and that no victim is left behind. Wynona’s House welcomes other child abuse advocates.

The United States continues to be the largest producer and consumer of child pornography. Lockdowns imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing regulations have accelerated advances in online engagement technology, our society’s shift to online engagement platforms has further increased the normalization of interactions prolonged and unsupervised social activities of children on virtual platforms. It provided easier and prolonged access to children for child predators and exposed exponentially more children to the risk of abuse, trafficking and sexual exploitation. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Statistical Report, 2020 was a banner year, with more than 21.7 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation made to NCMEC’s ​​CyberTipline, the most reports never received in a year. In addition, there were 82 million reports of child sexual abuse material. According to the same report, they noticed a clear and concerning increase in their CyberTipline reports of online incitement – ​​in 2020 alone, these types of incidents increased by 97.5% over the previous year. This grooming of children for online sexual solicitation and prostitution is considered a form of technology-facilitated child trafficking.

While many federal and state laws protect children from explicit content and online sexual and labor exploitation, the specific characteristics of these user-generated virtual worlds enable breaches of these protections, as security features are left to the users to control themselves. This leaves users, especially children, vulnerable in “real life” and in virtual reality. This offers predators an opportunity to exploit this insufficiently regulated world.

For questions regarding this event, please contact Wynona House Development and Communications Associate Minela Kajmak at [email protected] or 973-735-2237.

About Wynona’s House Children’s Advocacy Center

Wynona’s House is an incorporated 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization named for its legislative champion, the late Senator Wynona Lipman, who helped develop the Center to promote justice, hope and healing for abused children. and neglect across Essex County by coordinating investigation, prosecution, treatment, prevention and support services using the multi-disciplinary “child-centred” team approach. Located in Newark, Wynona’s House is the only co-located children’s advocacy center in New Jersey, serving over 800,000 Essex County residents and providing direct services to over 950 abused/neglected children each year. For more information on visiting the Wynona House wynonashouse.org.


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