April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and we're pleased to share a guest blog from the Ohio Network of Children's Advocacy Centers. As we've shared in our Early Childhood Dashboard, Ohio can be a challenging place to be a young child. This month, educate yourself on resources available to help those in your community.
By Danielle Vandegriff, Executive Director, Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers
Darkness to Light® has stated that “child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem with the most serious array of consequences that children face.” In 2013, Darkness to Light ® found that child sexual abuse had a 10% prevalence rate with consequences that range from short-term to lifelong including overly sexualized behavior, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy and motherhood, guilt and self-blame, fear of healthy affection and relationships, lack of self-worth and self-esteem, and vulnerability to other victimization. And of those children, 75% meet the standard of harm to indicate trauma(1).
In 2021, the National Children’s Alliance Report to the Office of Justice Programs shared that 939 Children’s Advocacy Centers served 386,191 children (2), 249,879 of which were for cases of child sexual abuse, only a fraction of the estimated 600,000 children that are abused across the nation each year(3). In 2022 7,963 children presented to Children’s Advocacy Centers in Ohio, of those, 73% (5,858) were victims of sexual abuse with 28% (2,278) being under 6 years old.
Nationally the youngest children are most vulnerable. Children in the first year of their life are 15% of all victims, and 1 in 40 infants under 1 year are victimized by abuse every year.
Children’s Advocacy Centers are composed of a multi-disciplinary team representative of multiple professionals that take part in the response to child abuse and neglect including victim advocates, forensic interviewers, medical professionals, mental health professionals, law enforcement, children services, and prosecutors. With all these multidisciplinary partners working together, Children’s Advocacy Centers serve children and families by coordinating the response to child abuse and neglect in a manner that is trauma-informed, evidence-based, and child-focused all while making sure that caregivers and children feel safe, informed, and leave feeling better (5).
Children’s Advocacy Centers are an integral part of the response to child abuse. Children’s Advocacy Centers enhance case outcomes and integrate families with services including counseling, case management, medical treatment, and more.
Additionally, children seen at a Children’s Advocacy Center are anywhere from 1.5-4 times more likely to receive forensic medical exams (6). And while abuse can occur at the hands of adults, it can occur at the hands of other children but with Children’s Advocacy Center treatment, 98% of children who hurt another child do not repeat this behavior (3). Nationally in 2021, Children’s Advocacy Centers ensured quality victim advocacy services to 386,191 children and evidence-informed counseling to 218,253 children. In 2022 in Ohio, Children’s Advocacy Centers provided 3,759 children with medical treatment, 4,643 children counseling or counseling referrals, and 6,168 children with trauma-informed interviews.
Children’s Advocacy Centers seek to address child abuse and neglect, but to do so need community support. To find your local Children’s Advocacy Center contact email@example.com or visit www.oncac.org/locations.
1. Townsend, C. (2013). Prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse compared with other childhood experiences. Darkness to Light.
2. OJJDP. (2022). National children’s alliance annual report. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
3. NCA. (n.d.). National statistics on child abuse. National Children’s Alliance.
4. National annual child abuse statistics cited from U.S. Administration for Children & Families, Child Maltreatment 2020. This data, released annually, is the most current federal data available.
5. NCA. (n.d.). Fact sheet: About NCA and CACs. National Children’s Alliance.
6. NCAC. (2019). Efficacy of the child advocacy center model. National Children’s Advocacy Center.