'Listen to them': Spotting signs of child abuse

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April is Child Abuse Awareness Month and with the ongoing pandemic, knowing what signs to look for could make the difference in a child's life.

It's as simple as paying extra attention to play time.

"Listen to them when they don't know you're listening because a lot of times when they've been abused, they may act out some of that in their play, but they don't really realize that,” said Sonia Eddleman, Clinical Director for the Child to Adult Abuse Response Team at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen.

Eddleman says they've been seeing fewer kids who've been sexually or physically abused, but she says that's actually a concerning trend in the midst of the pandemic.

"The children that we have seen have been assaulted more than one time and the assault has been more severe than it would have been in our normal phase before COVID," Eddleman said.

Before COVID-19, Eddleman says the Child and Adult Abuse Response Team, or CAART, treated about 100 children a month.

But those numbers are down by more than 25 percent. One reason is a lot of kids aren't back inside the classroom.

"Teachers are one of the best referrals to Child Protective Services and to protect the children because they're with them all the time,” Eddleman said.

Eddleman says a large percentage of kids are assaulted by family members or close family friends. So if a child starts acting out, suddenly locks doors, or expresses fear about a certain visitor, you should take note.

"They're hurting. They need somebody that can respond to that, that can listen and take care of them,” Eddleman said. "If you're the one that reports, ‘I saw this child do this one time,’ you may be the one that helps save that child's life."

If you suspect a child is a victim of abuse, call Child Protective Services, law enforcement or the CAART team at Valley Baptist in Harlingen.


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