April marks the beginning of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This month is dedicated to promoting awareness and providing education to the public about the abuse and neglect of children.
According to Lubbock United Way’s Go Blue campaign, one in three children in Lubbock is a victim of abuse. The average age of victims is three years old. In 2017 alone, Lubbock County had 1,032 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect.
To know if a child is enduring abuse, there could be different signs one may acknowledge.
Debra Lavender-Bratcher, assistant professor of social work at Texas Tech, said common signs of abuse or neglect include major changes in personality, uneasy temperament, a fearful nature and physical signs, such as bruising and scars.
“Children of abuse become fearful in common environments and might act out,” Lavender-Bratcher said. “They often wear long sleeves, even in warm temperatures, to cover any bruises or scars.”
Dr. Patti Patterson, professor of pediatrics at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and the only board-certified child abuse pediatrician in West Texas, said there are various forms of abuse and neglect. She said these include physical, sexual and emotional abuse, while common types of neglect include educational and supervision neglect.
Due to the different types of abuse, Patterson said students need to be educated about the signs and effects of child abuse.
“Everyone on campus who wants to be a teacher, coach or involved in health care needs to be educated about child abuse,” Patterson said. “Anyone who will be involved with kids, whether in their career or family, is going to see it.”
To help children who are victims of abuse, Lavender-Bratcher said the best way for students to help is through preventative work. She said mentoring programs give children who are victims of abuse a safe place.
For people who want to help, Lavender-Bratcher said some programs in Lubbock include Lubbock Impact, Early Learning Centers of Lubbock, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Lubbock United Way.
Jenna van Wunnik, a freshman biology major from Houston, said she worked as a swim instructor for the YMCA, where she had to undergo abuse training. During the training, she said she learned how to identify signs of abuse and how to react in situations when abuse was detected.
“Completing the training and looking for signs of abuse during swim lessons really made me more aware of how often it happens,” van Wunnik said. “Common signs I saw included children having bruises and scars while also appearing too skinny.”
According to Texas Department of Family and Protective services, Texas law requires anyone who believes a child may be a victim of abuse, neglect or exploitation must report it to DFPS. People can report abuse anonymously, either online or through a hot line.
The Texas DFPS’s hotline number is 1-800-252-5400, according to the Texas DFPS website. However, if the situation is an emergency or life-threatening, one should call 9-11.
According to United Way website, the organization’s Go Blue Lubbock campaign prompts Lubbock citizens to wear blue every Friday throughout the month of April. The Go Blue campaign also hosts several events to provide opportunities to raise funding and awareness for victims of abuse in the community.
“Child abuse is incredibly common,” Patterson said. “The community as a whole has to be involved in order to make a difference.