As abuse reports rise, child advocates push for awareness

More children are suffering from child abuse around the country and in your neighborhood. A study from the American Society of Positive Care of Children shows reports of abuse have reached 4 million, up from up from 3.6 million.

As National Child Abuse Prevention Month kicks off on April 1, leaders in southern Illinois are getting a jump start on advocating for children. They say kids need your help getting out of an abusive situation.

Perry-Jackson Child Advocacy Center Director Betti Mucha and the staff at the center stay busy helping abused and neglected kids. They’re needed more and more these days.

"I mean, it’s a huge problem. And no one wants to know that children are being abused, but they are," said Mucha.

Last year, the center took in around 100 abuse reports. So far this year, they’re already at 84.

"Physical abuse is definitely on the rise. I don’t know if that’s because of the economy, but we also have a lot of internet crimes, a lot of sex trafficking," Mucha said.

With other advocacy groups like the Perry-Jackson Child Advocacy Center, Lori Gray with the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services helped kick off child abuse prevention month at John A. Logan College. Gray says the problem is growing there, and the opioid epidemic is only making it worse.

"I mean, 75 percent of the reports we get are neglect, not abuse. So, if 75 are neglect, it’s typically because of mental health or substance abuse issues in the family," Gray said. Helping those kids starts with reporting signs of abuse.

"You know, teachers and people in churches, friends if they see something happening, they need to speak up and not be afraid to speak up," Mucha said. 

She said the kids deserve that.

"And they need you to, if you don’t, then nothing will ever stop,” she said.

Advocates say every teacher, daycare worker and family member who sees signs of abuse or neglect needs to report it. If you’re in Illinois, call 1-800-25-ABUSE or you can call the national hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

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