By Erin Jones

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Child abuse is often a dark family secret that only a teacher or someone inside a school can discover and expose.

A big conference in Dallas this week will focus, in large, on how to best identify, address and prosecute these cases.

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In a typical year, the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center receives around 7,000 new child abuse victims or child witnesses to crime, but Chief Operating Officer Erin Banister says the pandemic changed that.

“That took a drastic dip when the lockdown started last year,” she said.

Banister said this is because so many children weren’t around their trusted teachers, counselors and caretakers.

Now as they return to their daycares and schools, she expects to see an influx of child abuse reports.

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This week, DCAC is hosting its 33rd annual “Crimes Against Children Conference” virtually to prepare those working in law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution and medical fields worldwide.

“The timing of it is definitely not accidental,” Banister said. “We are hoping to really expand training opportunities in the child abuse field, specifically as it relates to the beginning of the school year. It’s especially important for the people who are fighting crimes against children to have fresh, relevant training”

The conference offers 182 workshops that focus on topics like abuse during the pandemic, child sex trafficking and internet crimes against children. Some of this information will be passed on to educators as they start the new year.

“A lot of our courses are required for teachers in Region 10, which is this area,” Banister said. “That’s going to be more on the side of recognizing and reporting and learning what should be reported and the appropriate reporting measures”

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For parents, DCAC says it’s important to always be aware of what your children are doing online. Now, more than ever, so much of their learning is done on devices, and online activity has drastically increased.

Erin Jones