Child Advocacy Center workers see an increase in abuse reports during the holidays

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 5:00 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Child Advocacy Center serves 15 counties in southwest Missouri. Officials report a higher number of child abuse cases than in 2021.

The Child Advocacy Center has served more than 1,400 children so far this year. Officials say they are getting more reports compared to the last two years, and the cases are more severe. Before the pandemic, the Child Advocacy Center served 1,700-1,800 cases yearly. Many of these reports were made by teachers or other mandated reporters.

When the pandemic hit and children were not going to school and other activities, the number of reports of abuse decreased. Now that we are returning to normal, the Child Advocacy Center is seeing the number of reports reach pre-pandemic numbers. Officials say that they see more cases of physical abuse and that most abuse is caused by a person the child knows and trusts.

“We talk a lot about stranger danger, but the fact is 90% of the time, the child knows, loves, or trusts the person that is causing them harm,” said Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Katiina Dull. “So we need to look within our own family units, our neighborhoods in our communities and make sure that we’re helping our children feel safe and empowering them with the tools to recognize when they’re being groomed or manipulated. And then feel empowered to be able to call that out and say no, and ask for help.”

Dull also say they receive more reports of sexual abuse during the holiday season. Holiday gatherings provide abusers the opportunity to cause harm. Here are a few tips for parents to help kids set boundaries and report abuse.

First, be available for your child. Set aside time to spend with them and let them know they can talk to you about anything. Tell them they can talk to you if someone is making them uncomfortable.

Next, let them know they will not be in trouble for talking to you. Predators often use secrets to manipulate children. Respond calmly and lovingly if your child tells you someone has hurt them. You may be angry that someone hurt your child, but your child may misunderstand and think you are mad at them.

Finally, teach your child it’s okay to say no.

“A conversation with your child can feel really overwhelming at first, but it can really be as simple as your body, your choice, and we can model that for our kids as well,” said Dull. “So when we’re getting together for family, and before any family member gives them a hug and power, your child ask them, Is it okay? If Uncle Joe gives you a hug and if your child says no, then back them up and support them on that.”

Make sure to have these conversations ahead of holiday gatherings so children can feel empowered and know what to do if someone is trying to harm them. If you need to report an abuse case, call (800) 392-3738 or CLICK HERE to file an online report.

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