Imagine a community where child abuse prevention is possible. Every April, the 15th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center promotes Child Abuse Prevention Month to raise public awareness of child abuse and neglect. Child Abuse Prevention Month can ignite a movement, recommit efforts and resources aimed at protecting children and strengthening families, and promote community involvement through activities that support the cause.

Each year, the CACs across the state and nationwide issue proclamations and provide trainings and outreach to raise awareness and to encourage communities to take steps to improve the well-being of children. This year with funding by United Way of Wilson County and Upper Cumberland, the CAC will display Child Abuse Prevention billboards in each of the five counties we serve.

Over the last 11 years, the CAC has completed over 2,586 forensic interviews with child victims of sexual & severe physical abuse.

In 2020, the CAC received 452 referrals from the Department of Children’s Service and conducted 318 forensic interviews.

Studies suggest one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Ninety-three% of abused children are victimized by someone they know and trust. Thirty-seven% are abused by immediate or extended family members. Of the children who are sexually abused, 20% are abused before the age of 8 and 90% never tell. Fifty% of sexually abused children suffer trauma severe enough to negatively impact their adult lives. They’re three times more likely to abuse drugsand alcohol and two times more likely to drop out of school.

“We should educate ourselves year-round about the signs of sexual and severe physical abuse,” said Scott Ridgway, executive director of the 15th Judicial District CAC. “We should listen to our children and young adults about their feelings, open up communication, ask about and validate their feeling’s and assure them did nothing wrong.”

Learn the signs in children and teens:

• Physical problems such as chronic stomach pains or headaches may occur. Emotional and behavioral signals are more common. Some of them are “too perfect” behavior, anxiety, withdrawal, fear, depression, unexplained anger, and rebellion.

• Nightmares, bedwetting, falling grades, cruelty to animals, bullying, being bullied, fire setting, runaway, and self-harm of any kind may be signs.

• Sexual behavior and language that is not age-appropriate can be red flags.

• Use of alcohol and drugs and an early age can be a sign.

The CAC promotes awareness of child sexual abuse with Stewards of Children training to adults at no cost on how to react, respond and report child sexual abuse. For every adult trained, ten children are better protected.

In the last 10 years over 2,300 adults have been trained by the CAC resulting in 20,000 children being better protected from abuse.

To learn how to get involved with the CAC or to request free child abuse prevention training for your group, business, agency, or organization, go to our website, Also, to report child abuse or neglect: call 1-877-237-0004.

— Submitted to the Democrat

Submitted to the Democrat

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