BELTON, Texas — According to the CDC, one in seven children experience child abuse or neglect. With April being National Child Abuse Prevention Month, local advocacy groups are raising awareness about prevention as they hope to get that number down to zero.
"It takes a community to help prevent this," Children's Advocacy Center of Central Texas Debra Longley told 25 News. "We ask all people to know the signs and not to be afraid to report it. It's best to report it and save a child's life then it is to keep it to yourself and regret that decision you've made."
Signs to look for can include changes in behavior, eating or sleeping habits, lack of hygiene, and a new fear of certain people or places.
"The first thing is don't panic," Longley said. "The next thing you need to do is believe the child, never think the child is not telling the truth. Allow the child to talk on their terms, reassure and support the child's feelings."
Just down the street, CASA is also doing their part to raise awareness.
"If we miss something, it could literally mean the difference between life and death sometimes," CASA Outreach Coordinator Molly Miloy said. "I hate to be that dark about it, but it is."
CASA volunteers work with victims of abuse as they work their way through the court system.
"If a child gets taken away from their family, their whole world is just instantly shattered," Executive Director Kevin Kyle said. "They don't know who to trust, they don't know who to talk to. That's where CASA comes in."
Kyle said there are hundreds of children who need help in Central Texas, and he hopes raising awareness will also bring in new volunteers looking to give back and change a life.
"I've had more than several of our volunteers tell me they get into this because they want to change a child's life, but in fact, it's their lives that end up being changed by working with these children," he said.