Approximately 25 percent of children in Arkansas suffer from abuse, yet many of them are suffering in silence. April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, held to shine a spotlight on abuses that often go unseen or without intervention.

“It’s sad to know that one in every four children you see is likely to be experiencing abuse in some fashion,” said Elizabeth Pulley, executive director of Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas. “Unfortunately, those cases probably grew during the isolation caused by COVID-19 because child abuse happens in secrecy. The signs of abuse go undetected when children are not seen regularly by others outside the home.”

Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas has 17 centers located throughout Arkansas that provide a safe place for children and non-offending family members. Services include advocacy, mental health therapy, medical exams and a one-time forensics interview for victims with law enforcement. Centers also employ prevention education specialists to offer free school and community resources.

“We never once closed our centers during the pandemic,” Pulley noted. “In fact, our mission became even more important during that time because we saw an even higher number of reported physical abuse cases than before. As in-person learning resumes in schools, we expect reported cases to continue to grow.”

The National Children’s Advocacy Center states that physical abuse and neglect are most affected by socioeconomic status, which was widely impacted by COVID-19 as families lost employment. By contrast, sexual abuse occurs equally across all levels of society.

Arkansas’s First Lady Susan Hutchinson has long been a champion for children suffering through abuse.

“When my husband became Governor in 2015, I was committed to use my unique platform to help make a difference for children,” said Ms. Hutchinson. “Children rarely tell someone that they are being abused, so it is critical that we, as adults, recognize the signs and be courageous enough to do something about it.”

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at 1-844-SAVE-A-CHILD or 1-800-482-5964.

To locate a Children’s Advocacy Center, visit www.cacarkansas.org.

(2) comments

Frank Sterle Jr.

Proactive measures may be in order to avoid having to later reactively treat (often with tranquilizing medication) potentially serious and life-long symptoms caused by a dysfunctional environment, neglect and/or abuse. And if we’re to avoid the dreadedly invasive conventional reactive means of intervention—that of governmental forced removal of children from dysfunctional/abusive home environments—maybe we then should be willing to try an unconventional proactive means of preventing some future dysfunctional/abusive family situations. Child development science curriculum might be one way.

I wonder how many instances there have been wherein immense long-term suffering by children of dysfunctional rearing might have been prevented had the parent(s) received, as high school students, some crucial parenting or child development education by way of mandatory curriculum? After all, dysfunctional and/or abusive parents, for example, may not have had the chance to be anything else due to their lack of such education and their own dysfunctional/abusive rearing as children.

For decades, I’ve strongly felt that a psychologically and emotionally sound (as well as a physically healthy) future should be all children’s foremost right — especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter — and therefore child development science should be learned long before the average person has their first child.

Frank Sterle Jr.

Should not every day of the year be National Child Abuse Prevention Month, everywhere?

Trauma from unchecked child abuse/neglect typically results in the helpless child’s brain improperly developing. If allowed to continue for a prolonged period, it acts as his/her starting point into an adolescence and (in particular) an adulthood in which its brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines. It can make every day an emotional/psychological ordeal, unless the mental turmoil is doused with some form of self-medicating.

Meanwhile, general society perceives thus treats human procreative rights as though we’ll somehow, in blind anticipation, be innately inclined to sufficiently understand and appropriately nurture our children’s naturally developing minds and needs. I find that mentality — however widely practiced — wrong and needing re-evaluation, however unlikely that will ever happen.

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