PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)– You may have noticed these blue pinwheels flying around town, but may not know what they stand for. April is Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“It’s a chance for us to highlight our educational programs and bring awareness to such a critical issue in our community,” said Gulf Coast Children Advocacy Center Executive Director, Lori Allen.
Allen said there are several cases they investigate each year, but child abuse and sexual assault is often an issue that goes unreported as its rooted in secrecy and shame.
“Here in the Panhandle of Florida the six counties that compromise our catchment area, you’re going to see close to 6,000 reports every year related to allegations of child abuse, abandonment or neglect,” she said.
According to Allen, 150 children enrolled in trauma therapy attend services once a week. She also added that studies show a direct correlation between those who have suffered from adolescent abuse and develop dysfunctional behaviors.
“Some of those things are substance abuse, mental health challenges and that leads to early fatality in life, and we want to make sure the resources that weren’t there years ago are present,” she said.
But how do you spot a child in distress?
“Inconsistent injuries that don’t really match up to the explanation, and then there’s some other subtle changes, you may see a change in behavior, a drop in grades,” she said.
The Florida Abuse Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-96ABUSE.