HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The pandemic led to a substantial decrease in forensic interviews regarding allegations of child abuse in Madison county in 2020, according to the National Children’s Advocacy Center.
The Center saw a 10 percent decline in the number of children interviewed following allegations of abuse in 2020 compared to 2019.
”Almost all of child abuse cases, especially child sexual abuse, there’s only two people who know what happened. It doesn’t happen in public and it’s not done in front of other people. There is the child and the person alleged to have done it,” said National Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director, Chris Newlin.
Since you can’t really rely on an abuser to tell the truth, experts can only look to a forensic interview with the child to know what happened.
The NCAC receives abuse referrals two ways, from law enforcement or the department of human resources.
Newlin said he’s still encouraged by one specific number, advocates conducted 40-percent more follow ups with families receiving services - like therapy in person or through tele-health.
”We continue to do the work because that’s what dedicated people do. Our police partners, never took a day off of work. Our DHR partners, never took a day off from work. We were there and worked safely as we can,” added Newlin.
The initial shutdown in March and April 2020 led to 53 fewer forensic interviews than the same time-frame in 2019. The July 2019 COVID-19 spike led to 19 fewer forensic interviews than the same time-frame in 2019.
Keep in mind, a drop in forensic interviews doesn’t mean cases of abuse stopped, Newlin said the data instead reinforces the importance of our teachers, counselors, and other mandatory reporters - and 2020 prevented children from having access to these adults.
Parents and community members can help prevent child abuse and alert authorities when abuse is expected by taking the following steps:
1. Learn the facts
2. Minimize opportunity
3. Talk about it
4. Recognize the signs after participating in a Steward’s of Children® Training through the NCAC
5. React responsibly by alerting law enforcement or the Alabama Department of Human Resources
To learn more about the National Children’s Advocacy Center and its mission, visit their website here: https://www.nationalcac.org/