CLINTON, Tenn. — Millions of children are reported to be abused every year and with the COVID-19 pandemic, experts believe the number is actually higher. The Child Advocacy Center provides help for children in East Tennessee, and they said they helped many people even before the pandemic.
“There so many kids that we end up getting in here and teenagers. It's stuff for trauma or violence,” said Kristy Cross, a mental health therapist at the center.
They said that the statistics around child abuse may have been exacerbated by the pandemic, since abuse may continue without being reported. Children may have few opportunities to reach out for help, which means incidents may never show up on statistics.
So, the Child Advocacy Center plans to take action, instead of sitting by.
“It’s very important that people know our center is a one-stop-shop where everything can be done at one time, so the child doesn’t go through trauma over and over again,” said Capshaw.
Cross said that sometimes, children may be stuck in cycles of abuse because they may not know how to find resources, even if they are available for them. She said that it's the responsibility of the center to make sure families and children can find and access their resources.
So, they are working to raise awareness. February is National Teen Violence Awareness Month, and the center is using it as an opportunity to make sure as many people know about them as possible.
“Approximately 1.5 million boys and girls admit that they were hit or abused by someone they’re romantically involved with,” said Capshaw.
Cross says a key to stopping any and all abuse of children is to educate the general public. She said that everyone should stay vigilant for signs of child abuse, and know when to intervene if necessary.
"I think we need to educate more people on this is their responsibility to help these children and this is how you do it,” said Cross.
Every handprint on the walls of the Child Advocacy Center represents a child saved by the work they do.
Tennessee is a mandatory reporter state so if you have reason to believe a child is in some sort of danger, the law requires that you must report it.