story by Tabatha Gardner
Editor’s note: During 2012, The City Wire will publish a series of stories focusing on people and organizations working in our communities to raise awareness of child abuse and reduce abuse figures.
BENTONVILLE — You don't need to look far to discover one of the scariest statistics in Benton County.
The number is 85.
It is significant because that's how many cases of child abuse were reported in the county during May.
It also set a new record for the number of cases reported to the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County during a single month, said Erin Kraner, a forensic interviewer with the center.
The number also brings the total number of children seen at the Children's Advocacy Center in 2012 thus far to 353, Kraner said, noting that the reason for the spike in child abuse cases during May will likely never be known.
As scary as the spike in cases seen during May is, there is a silver lining, Kraner said.
"At least someone is doing something about it. Our numbers may go up but we can take comfort in knowing we are doing something about it to give children the best opportunity for justice, Kraner said.
Established in January 2000, the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County's mission is to "provide a safe place for child abuse victims and their families to receive comprehensive services from dedicated professional interviewers, nurses, counselors and advocates in a child-friendly atmosphere," according to its website.
More than 3,500 children have been seen by the Children's Advocacy center since it opened 13 years ago, according to its website.
There are other staggering statistics for child abuse in Benton County. Numbers like 627, the number of children seen at the center in 2011, or the number 444, the number of child abuse offenders listed in 2011, according to Kramer.
Of the 444 offenders listed in 2011, 80% were parents, foster parents, step parents or a parent's boyfriend or girlfriend and 75 to 80% of the time, the abuse was sexual, Kraner said.
The bottom line is this "child abuse is happening to people you know and to people you aren't even aware of," Kraner said, noting that awareness is the key to helping prevent and stop child abuse.
"We hope that if we raise enough awareness and if we can get people to understand child abuse is happening that we can stop it," she said.
Every 10 seconds a child is molested in the United States and four children die each day from the effects of child abuse.
Key things to look for when you suspect a child may be being abused are changes in their behavior.
Kraner said, the most important thing anyone can do for an abused child is to be supportive, because almost one-third of children who are abused will also mistreat their own kids, keeping the cycle alive.