LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Thousands of child abuse cases are reported not only in Arkansas but nationwide every year.
April is Child Abuse Awareness month and Arkansans are working to raise awareness on the issue. It often times goes unnoticed or never reported.
"Whether it's neglect or on up to physical and sexual abuse. The warnings signs are different,” Mischa Martin said.
Martin is the director of Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). She said raising awareness about the problem is crucial.
“If you're in the community and you have reasonable cause to suspect child abuse you can call the hotline,” she said.
According to DCFS, the Arkansas child abuse hotline received 34,459 reports of child maltreatment in 2017. Twenty-four percent of those reports were found to be true.
The number of reports remained consistent in years past. 2016 saw 35,493 calls to the hotline. 2015 had 33,683. Both years also found 24 percent of the calls to be true.
“Most people don’t know that of those cases, those reports, they’re coming from kids that know and love their perpetrators,” Chad Sievers said.
Sievers is the program manager for Arkansas Building Effective Services for Trauma at UAMS.
He said it is not always easy to identify a child who is abused.
"We know that one in five kids will go on to develop traumatic stress symptoms,” Sievers said.
He said most of the time, the abuser is a family member or a relative.
"People need to know that it's not just a stranger in a van,” Sievers said. “Unfortunately perpetrators are really smart and they can really groom these kids. Slowly but surely they can get in there.”
But child abuse is preventable and it starts with getting entire communities involved.
“Prevention work happens when people volunteer in their churches, when they volunteer and help in sports leagues, after school programs. When they reach out to that new mom. That’s child abuse prevention,” Martin said.
Advocates will gather on the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol with Governor Asa Hutchinson on April 11. The group hopes to promote prevention and call on community members to speak up if they see something.
If you do suspect abuse, call the hotline at 1-800-SAVE A CHILD.