Preventing child abuse: we are all in this together

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By: Winn Stephens, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass

At the end of Child Abuse Prevention Month, I reflected on Kentucky’s ranking near the bottom of child abuse cases nationally. In 2020, Kentucky ranked 5th in total number of reported cases of child abuse. In the previous two years, Kentucky was 1st. Too many children across our Commonwealth are victims of abuse – often by those closest to them or in positions of trust.

At the Bluegrass Children’s Advocacy Center, we often see the worst of these cases. The majority of the 1,000 children we see every year are victims of sexual abuse. Often I am asked how our staff members are able to handle the nature of this difficult work. “I could never do your job,” they say. I understand that feeling, but I also know that we make a difference every day.

We see the relief in the eyes of a 7-year-old boy who reveals his story of abuse for the first time. He is comforted to share the painful secret he has been carrying alone for months and knows that life will now be a little safer for him. We are inspired by the adolescent girl who thrives in therapy. She now holds her head a little higher because she has learned to trust again.

Every day we witness the beautiful transformation from victim to survivor in Thriver. This is exactly why I am proud to be part of the wider network of organizations working to eradicate child abuse and serve child victims.

From the outreach, education and training of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky to CASA’s advocacy on behalf of abused children, and the incredible work of our local Commonwealth prosecutors, county prosecutors, law enforcement and from Cabinet Social Workers for Health and Family Services, we are all committed to working together to make Kentucky a place where all children have the opportunity to live happy, healthy lives.

Central Kentucky is fortunate to have so many agencies working on behalf of children. The state legislature recently approved increased funding for child advocacy centers and other organizations supporting child abuse victims. But these steps alone will not suffice. We need everyone in this region to step up and help end child abuse.

Together we can end the scourge of child abuse in our Commonwealth. Together we can make Kentucky the safest place in America to grow up. We all play a role. If you suspect a child is being abused, call the Child Abuse Hotline at: (877) 597-2331 or report it online through the Kentucky Child Protective Services website .

For more information about Child Abuse Prevention Month or the services provided by the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass, contact Taylor Ballinger, Engagement Director, at 859-225-5437 or email [email protected] kykids.org.

Since 1994, the mission of the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass has been to reduce the trauma experienced by child victims of sexual abuse by providing services in a nurturing, friendly and safe environment. They coordinate agencies involved in handling, investigating, and prosecuting child abuse cases in 17 counties in central Kentucky. In 2022, more than 1,000 children will be seen at the Center for forensic interviews, medical examinations, advocacy services and therapy. All services are provided free of charge.

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