Child abuse is one of the fastest-growing national epidemics and is 100% preventable!

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM-TV) – Thursday marks the first day of April. It’s also the start of Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. Officials with Family Services of Chemung County, Inc., provided some shocking data, along with vital ways you can help put a stop to child abuse.

According to the National Children’s Alliance, nearly 700,000 are abused in the United States each year. Ending child abuse starts with each one of us – at home, at work, and wherever children live and play. In times where children and adolescents have less access to schools, mental health, friends, or other providers, it is essential that more is done to protect our youth. Offenders find new and more complex ways to harm children all the time, but we can help stop them.

In 2020, there were 1,372 allegations of child abuse and maltreatment reported to Chemung County Children and Family Services. Upon investigation, 35% presented with enough evidence to substantiate the report and most are also referred to law enforcement and/or mental health.

The Chemung County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) served 269 children in 2020.

The Internet, On-Line Safety and Child Abuse

The internet and phone apps continue to be growing factors in child abuse. It is estimated that nationally, 1 in 3 minors play games online with people they do not know. Most games also have chat capabilities allowing children to converse with strangers, as do apps. Predators are utilizing what should be “innocent” forms of recreation as means to groom and trap youth. Functions like geotagging or locator features can provide perpetrators with information you do not want them to have.

Offenders often befriend children and adolescents in these sites and lure them into providing personal info, gain access to their lives and at times find them in real life without the child grasping the dangers in the seemingly anonymous virtual world. Ensure parental controls are setup, monitor what your child is doing online and with whom, talk to kids and teens about hazards of online activities before something bad happens!

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Trafficking

New York State enacted the Safe Harbour for Exploited Children Act in 2008 becoming the first state in the nation to recognize sexually exploited minors as victims of crimes, not perpetrators of crimes.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and human trafficking continue to grow at a pace that is difficult to control. In 2019, 454 human trafficking cases were reported in New York State, which has more than doubled since 2016. The highest percentage of trafficked victims are 14–15 year old females, but males, infants and toddlers are also being sexually exploited for others’ benefit in the United States. Children who experience abuse or neglect are more likely to be exploited and trafficked. LGBTQ+ youth are also at a higher risk for sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Sexual exploitation can range from an exchange of a sexual act for a warm place to stay for a night to traffickers using social media and gaming sites to lure children and adolescents into “the life” with false promises, where they then may experience repeated assaults. Some youth are not only forced to perform sexually, but are also drugged, beaten, and starved to force compliance. These survivors often have no outlet to the outside world and can even be “branded” to show ownership by their captors and prevent their escape.

Chemung County has been taking steps to better locate and provide support for youth identified as runaway, homeless, at risk for or who are victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Learn about the available resources to youth who have been exploited or trafficked. Know the signs, get involved and protect our community’s young people.

Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence

On average, about 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. In 2020, Chemung County Sheriff’s Office responded to 94 domestic violence calls. This isn’t counting our many other law enforcement or intervention agencies.

Children and adolescents may witness verbal arguments and/or physical altercations, as well as experience other facets of mistreatment: emotional abuse, stalking, control tactics, fear or intimidation, confinement, weapon use and many more.

Children often experience long-term effects such as nightmares, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, poor school performance, physical or verbal aggression from exposure to domestic violence.

Further, witnessing intimate partner violence may make children more likely to exhibit those same behaviors in adolescence and adulthood and may lead to an increased chance of being a victim of domestic violence themselves. Stop the cycle of violence. Protect yourself and your family from this behavior.

Learn more about the signs, how to protect our community’s youth and supports available for those who have experienced domestic violence.

Safe Sleep for Infants

Infant deaths as a result of unsafe sleep environments are one of the most preventable kinds of infant fatalities.

In Chemung County, there were 8 infant deaths that had unsafe sleep components between 2015-2017, and one death due to unsafe sleep conditions since 2017.

New York State Office of Children and Family Services indicated an incline in infant deaths from 2016 to 2017 that had unsafe sleep components. 47% of infant deaths had an unsafe sleep component in 2017, as compared to 39% in 2016. The rate of fatalities due to unsafe sleep reduced back to 39% in 2018.

An unsafe sleep environment could be composed of co-sleeping with another person or animal, sleeping on an unsatisfactory surface such as a bed or sofa, using fluffy bedding, bumpers and pillows, or the baby sleeping face down, among other factors.

Co-sleeping or sharing another surface is never recommended. Research has consistently proven that the risks of co-sleeping far outweigh the perceived benefits. However, room sharing is encouraged; placing a baby in a proper pack and play or crib in a parents’ bedroom is safe and appropriate. Do not lay a child beside you or lay down while breastfeeding.

If someone needs help obtaining a safe sleeping environment for an infant, the community can help!