Approximately 25 percent of children in Arkansas suffer from abuse, yet many of them are suffering in silence. April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, held to shine a spotlight on abuses that often go unseen or without intervention.
“It’s sad to know that one in every four children you see is likely to be experiencing abuse in some fashion,” said Elizabeth Pulley, executive director of Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas. “Unfortunately, those cases probably grew during the isolation caused by COVID-19 because child abuse happens in secrecy. The signs of abuse go undetected when children are not seen regularly by others outside the home.”
Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas has 17 centers located throughout Arkansas that provide a safe place for children and non-offending family members. Services include advocacy, mental health therapy, medical exams and a one-time forensics interview for victims with law enforcement. Centers also employ prevention education specialists to offer free school and community resources.
“We never once closed our centers during the pandemic,” Pulley noted. “In fact, our mission became even more important during that time because we saw an even higher number of reported physical abuse cases than before. As in-person learning resumes in schools, we expect reported cases to continue to grow.”
The National Children’s Advocacy Center states that physical abuse and neglect are most affected by socioeconomic status, which was widely impacted by COVID-19 as families lost employment. By contrast, sexual abuse occurs equally across all levels of society.
Arkansas’s First Lady Susan Hutchinson has long been a champion for children suffering through abuse.
“When my husband became governor in 2015, I was committed to use my unique platform to help make a difference for children,” she said. “Children rarely tell someone that they are being abused, so it is critical that we, as adults, recognize the signs and be courageous enough to do something about it.”
To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at 1.844.SAVE.A.CHILD or 1.800.482.5964. To locate a Children’s Advocacy Center, visit www.cacarkansas.org.