DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Some troubling new numbers track a rise in child abuse reports in North Texas.
A year ago, as the pandemic forced already fragile families into isolation, advocates noticed a sharp drop in reports, but warned that the situation was nothing to celebrate.
Elena Doskey, with the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center told CBS 11 in May 2020, “We’re not naive to the fact that abuse is still ongoing, and there may be more severe cases due to the ongoing stress…”
Fast forward to 2021 and those fears have been realized.
Reports of child abuse are up in both Tarrant and Dallas counties.
The number of forensic interviews in March at the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center are breaking a record.
“What that means is over 260 children came and shared their experiences of abuse with one of our forensic interviewers and likely told their story fully for the first time to someone that can help them,” says Sarah Burns, Chief Marketing Officer for DCAC. “The abuse has gone undetected little bit more…more prolonged sexual abuse, more severe physical abuse.”
April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.
It is a reminder, experts say, to stay aware. It is also an invitation to revisit family conversations that should start early –and never stop– even when awkward.
“No one likes to talk about abuse: it’s not friendly dinner table conversation,” admits Burns. “No one likes to think this might happen to their child or someone they know. Unfortunately, it is one in ten children, one in four girls, and one in six boys will be sexually abused by someone that they know and trust before they are 18. So to end this, we have to talk about it.”
Burns encourages parents to not wait for headlines to have those important conversations.
“They should be ongoing conversations, open dialogue about empowering your children to be safe and to also know they can tell someone when they are not safe.”
During the pandemic, the agency shifted to move support services online. Still, it is important to remind the community they say that in spite of the hurt, children and families are being healed.
“Yes,” says Burns. “Children and families heal and have hope and we are so honored to be a part of that journey.”