Healing Garden for Child Abuse Victims will Grow in Lake County

by Long Hwa-shu

A unique garden to help the healing process of the victims of child abuse will soon be under construction in Gurnee.

The garden, about 30 yards wide and 75 yards long, will be an oasis, peaceful and safe, with trees and bushes planted to provide privacy and to attract butterflies.

Ground was broken for the garden Tuesday, July 26, at the Children’s Advocacy Center at 123 O’Plaine Road across from the Gurnee Police Department by State’s Atty. Michael Nerheim and Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor. The center, operated by the State’s Attorney’s Office, investigates and prosecutes offenders of child abuse.

The garden, several years in the making, is the brainchild of Nerheim who had first heard of a healing garden at the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Lake County State's Atty. MIke Nerheim
Lake County State’s Atty. MIke Nerheim

“I went there to look at it. It was such a peaceful place,” Nerheim recalled and decided to build one in Lake County modelled after the one in Chicago.

Under the auspices of Nerheim, $80,000 has been raised by the center’s Friends Committee in the past two years for the project, mostly through donations.

The garden, about 30 yards wide and 75 yards long, will be an oasis, peaceful and safe, with trees and bushes planted to provide privacy and to attract butterflies. There will be a pergola and a man-made waterfall with benches around.

Statistics of child abuse in Lake County cry for such a healing garden, according to Nerheim.

In 2015, the State’s Attorney’s Office conducted 615 sensitive interviews of child abuse victims, handled 517 child sexual abuse cases, 54 physical abuse cases, 44 witness-to-abuse cases, 197 cases where the  offender is a relative, and 386 cases involving victims who were 12 years old or under.

The trend appears to be ominously upward.

So far this year from January to July, there have been 341 sensitive interviews of child abuse victims, 261 child sexual abuse cases, 52 physical abuse cases, and 28 witness-to-abuse cases. In addition, there were 121 cases where the offender is a relative, and 218 cases where the victim was 12 or younger.

The garden is expected to be completed early fall, said Nerheim.

“Right now, we’re applying for a permit,” he said.

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