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Twin Cedars’ Ask the Experts: Is child abuse more pervasive now?

Question: My husband and I often sit down together in the evenings to watch the news and follow stories that involve child sexual abuse. It seems that the general public is becoming increasingly more aware of this issue through a wide variety of media outlets, whether it be in the form of featured newspaper articles, local and national news, social media, etc. With that being said, is child abuse a pervasive social problem that is on the rise?

Signed,

Mother of grown children

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Dear Wife and Mother:

We are in fact seeing a rise in the public’s awareness of this omnipresent social issue.

Research has shown that trauma associated with child sexual abuse can cause both short- and long-term challenges for victims which has a resounding, adverse impact on the social welfare systems of all communities. In more recent years, the mental health discipline has begun to recognize child sexual abuse as a valid and global mental health public concern.

Our community is making great strides in becoming a trauma-responsive community. On the prevention end, human service providers that serve child victims of abuse within this community are embedding trauma-focused, evidence-base practices into their service models to address this pervasive issue which has evolved into a public health concern for all communities across the nation.

Child sexual abuse is no longer the taboo topic that it once was, in large part due to the role that the media has played in keeping this issue in the forefront. We’ve seen mandated reporter laws evolve into laws that are no longer vague, ambiguous and only apply to select sectors of society.

In fact, the state of Georgia amended the statute governing mandated reporting (O.C.G.A. 19-7-5) effective July 1, 2012, to significantly expand who must report and placed parameters on the time lines for reporting. In short, any and all personnel that provides service in any capacity to children, including volunteers and the clergy, are now considered mandated reporters.

The only exemption is clergy who learn of abuse as part of confession. Because of this proactive piece of legislation, we have seen a marked increase in Georgia in the reporting of child abuse.

In reality, we are making statistical strides related to the incidence of child sexual abuse. Not too many years ago, research showed that one in every four girls and one in every six boys would be sexually abused before the age of 18.

The latest research shows that one in every 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18. As a point of reference and on the local level, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Troup County (Twin Cedars Youth & Family Services, Inc.) conducts around 200 forensic interviews on child abuse victims for law enforcement and DFCS each year in addition to a providing a host of victim support services to include forensic medical exams.

While the forensic interviews and medical exams greatly enhance the successful prosecution of these cases, we cannot understate the value of having an abundance of expertise from the agencies that work these complex investigations.

For more information regarding child sexual abuse please contact Kim Adams with the Child Advocacy Center of Troup County at kadams@twincedars.org or Mike Angstadt, executive director of Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services, Inc. at mangstadt@twincedars.org.

Ask an expert

Twin Cedars staff

Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services may be contacted at 706-298-0050. Anyone who wants to submit a question to be answered in this column may send it to Twin Cedars, Attn: Mike Angstadt, PO Box 1526, LaGrange, GA 30241.