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Between 700 and 800 cases of child sexual abuse are referred on average each year to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Bristol County, which provides treatment and support to victims and their families.
But in the past year, the number of referrals has dropped to about 250 cases. That isn’t necessarily good news, however, as it reflects the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw lengthy periods when schools were closed, and athletic teams and other activities were suspended. As a result, people who are required under the law to report suspected cases of child sexual assault have had only irregular contact with children they normally see, which often means that cases go unreported.
CAC mental health clinicians Brittannie Moroz and Jillian Allen shared CDC data stating one in four girls and one in 13 boys under age 18 suffer trauma as a result of child sexual abuse. Those children are some of the approximately 75,000 Bristol County children age 16 and younger believed to have suffered trauma from abuse, violence, addiction in their homes or other causes of childhood trauma.
Depending on the age of the child, trauma often manifests itself in both physical and emotional symptoms, from trouble sleeping to anger and acting out, anxiety and depression, or changes in appearance or behavior. The CAC helps by offering not only traditional talk therapy but also other physical forms of treatment that can help children relieve physical, emotional and psychological symptoms associated with trauma by giving them tools to manage those symptoms. Soon, they hope to also offer trauma-sensitive yoga as well.
“Every child experiences trauma so differently and every child is so unique,” said Allen. “You may have a child who is really withdrawn and isolated…as opposed to a child who is angry and lashing out.”
The CAC works with teachers to help them recognize signs of potential abuse, something more and more schools are building into teacher training programs.
“Traumatic stress symptoms are actually very treatable,” said Moroz. Treatment begins with building a relationship with each child to help re-establish trust and to build confidence.
An expansion of the CAC’s facility in Fall River will provide more room for offering trauma-informed treatments meant to help those children feel safe and overcome the symptoms of abuse.
Listen to learn more about what the Children’s Advocacy Center of Bristol County is doing and how they provide trauma informed treatment to children affected by child abuse.