CORPUS CHRISTI — It’s a message child advocates work to spread every day: Reporting child abuse and neglect is everyone’s responsibility.
Advocates’ efforts will get a boost in April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
For many abused children, help comes too late or not at all.
Last year, 280 children in Texas died because of abuse or neglect, 20 of which were from South Texas. There also were more than 68,000 victims of abuse or neglect.
That’s why reporting the first sign of suspected abuse is vital, said John Lennan, spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
“Our most vulnerable are many times the youngest victims,” Lennan said. “They don’t have the ability to make an outcry.”
Lennan said everyone has not only a moral duty but a legal one to report any suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.
“Our investigators never want to hear, ‘We suspected that,’ or ‘We knew that was going on for years and thought someone else reported it,’” Lennan said. “Everybody has that obligation.”
Preventing child sexual abuse also starts with knowing that in most cases the abuser is someone the child knows, said Ricardo Jimenez, the program director and lead forensic interviewer for the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Coastal Bend.
“Stranger danger almost doesn’t exist,” he said.
The local nonprofit works with children who have been sexually and physically abused. It offers services such as adult and teen support groups and other victim assistance.
By the time you finish reading this, 15 children will have been abused; In the next five minutes, 30 more; Within the next hour, 360 more; And by tonight, close to 8,000+ children will have suffered from abuse, 5 of which will die. Child abuse has increased 134% since 1980 and is now considered a worldwide epidemic. The high jump in child abuse deaths and the shocking increase in statistics highlights the frightening lack of public knowledge.
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It May Just Save a Child's Life!!