Jump in child abuse reports at Child Advocacy Center in 2018

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3/KSPR) - The Child Advocacy Center (CAC) reports child abuse cases are on the rise across the Ozarks. The staff there saw about two dozen more kids in 2018 than the previous year.

The Executive Director talked about why this year the staff only saw a marginal increase, compared to years past when the jumps seemed massive. "In the past we had larger jumps of children seen because there was a law that went into effect that mandated that children under four were required to have a medical exam," explained Linda Saturno.

In 2018, the CAC saw more than 1,600 children. The staff there also performed more than 1,400 forensic interviews and more than 1,200 medical exams. Linda Saturno said the reports of abuse across the Ozarks are getting more complex. "With children having multiple forms of abuse being recorded as opposed to in year's past and we are paying a lot more attention to those complex cases."

Below is a breakdown of the abuse reported in 2018 to the Child Advocacy Center.
59% - Sexual Abuse
41% - Physical Abuse
39% - Witness to a Crime
13% - Neglect
15% Drug Endangerment
4% - Child Exploitation

"Obviously, all that adds up to more than 100%, but we have children who may be recorded as physical abuse, sexual abuse, and they've been neglected," explained Saturno.

Saturno said a simple call can save a child's life. "That call would go into the hotline to the state and the person who hotlined that call remains completely anonymous," started Saturno. "It's not that you have to worry about getting into trouble or that they're going to find out that you called it in or that necessarily your neighbor gets into trouble cause if it's not substantiated it's not it's not substantiated and there would not be an investigation." The Missouri Child Abuse Hotline number is 800-392-3738.

Of all of the abuse reported to the Child Advocacy Center in 2018, 92% of the abuse is from an adult the child and family are already familiar with. Saturno said "grooming" can often take place without noticing. That is one reason they are trying to promote the Stewards of Children training they offer through the Darkness 2 Light organization.

The Stewards of Children training teaches adults what to keep an eye out for when someone is "grooming" a child. Saturno gave some of the warning signs. "Multiple gifts, it's happening a lot, if that person is making contact with that child a lot more than you think is normal, asking maybe to pick them up after school, to take them somewhere, if they're trying to get alone time with that child."

She also encouraged parents to trust their gut. "We know a parents what's a normal request and what's not a normal request," she said.

Saturno said much of the CAC staff is trained and can travel throughout the Ozarks to give the training.

The Child Advocacy Center is located at 1033 East Walnut Street in Springfield. Their phone number is (417) 831-2327.