Child abuse happens in every state across the country, and the trends for Texas have been steadily increasing.
In the Lone Star State, more than four children die from abuse or neglect every week and more than 184 cases of child abuse are confirmed every day.
April is recognized as National Child Abuse Awareness Month, but advocates work year-round to support victims of child abuse and put a stop to this unthinkable issue.
For over a decade, Dr. Tammy Bracewell, now a professor of criminal justice at A&M Central Texas, worked as a detective and forensic interviewer, specializing in crimes against children. She says there was never an easy day on the job.
Children, who’ve just started forming complete sentences, describing vivid details of abuse they’ve experienced is a lot to take in, even for experienced forensic interviewers like Dr. Bracewell
“By far the most difficult is sitting in a room with those young kids, who even a lot of times had no idea what happened to them was wrong and that should not have happened to them,” she said.
Dr. Bracewell says child abuse is very broad, but includes neglect, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Here in Central Texas, the work never stops
“The child abuse units in Bell County and the law enforcement and CPS and are very busy. Bell County, in the state of Texas, Bell County is frequently ranked in the top several counties for child abuse in the state of Texas,” Dr. Bracewell said.
”In 2020, we had more than 2,200 children confirmed victims of abuse. The large majority of that was in Bell County with 1,738.” explained Michelle Carter, executive director for the Children's Advocacy Center of Central Texas.
The Children's Advocacy Center of Central Texas services, Bell, Coryell, and Milam Counties. Carter says more than half of their cases involve a type of abuse that can be very hard to spot.
“Sexual abuse is the primary case that we see. About 73% of children that come through our doors are sexual abuse in nature, and a lot of times parents don’t know what’s happening,” Carter said.
Dr. Bracewell feels it's extremely important for parents to have reoccurring talks with their children about their bodies so they aren’t embarrassed or ashamed to come forward. Although it may be uncomfortable to talk about, it’s a conversation that must happen.
“Just in general, body safety talks and knowing personal boundaries and making sure that your child does know what to do if those boundaries are ever crossed. It’s still a taboo topic, which is unfortunate because in order to combat it, open discussions really do need to happen,” she explained.
Both Dr. Bracewell and Carter believe even if you have the smallest feeling that a child is being abused, you should report it.
“You only have to suspect child abuse. You do not have to have factual knowledge of what’s going on, and so absolutely. If you’re ever concerned that a child is being abused, you should call. The 1-800 number is 1-800-252-5400 and make that report,” Carter said,
In the state of Texas, every adult is a mandated reporter. Failure to report suspected child abuse and neglect is a criminal offense.
For more information about how to identify child abuse click here.