SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Child advocates are trying to raise awareness for a potential rise in child abuse cases due to stay-at-home orders.
“Any type of crisis when people are experiencing high levels of stress, we find that child abuse tends to escalate instead of coming to a halt.” said Jessica Milan Miller, CEO of Gingerbread House.
The child advocacy center works with children ages 2-17 who have been victims of sexual assault or physical abuse or who have witnessed a crime.
The National Child Abuse Hotline is recording a higher number of calls and texts now compared to this time last year.
“For us, that week of the March 16, we did see a little bit of a decrease," Miller said. "But ever since then, it has picked up steadily week after week.
"For example, last week we had nine emergency cases. So we are still seeing a combination of sexual and physical abuse, but we have seen a rise in the number of physical abuse cases.
"I’m afraid to say that trend will probably continue for some months.”
Everyone can play a role in preventing child abuse, Miller said.
“Some of our best first responders are teachers; and right now, children don’t have access to them and can’t go to them for help.”
So what do you do if you suspect something is happening to a child?
“We urge you to make that call and file a concern report so it can be investigated. You can remain anonymous,” Miller said.
"It is so important and you may be that only chance of that child getting some help.”
Miller says they will help parents and guardians too.
“If you are experiencing high levels of stress, we are here to help.” Miller said. “If that means you need someone to talk to on the phone, we are able to talk to you and provide resources.
“You don’t have to be alone,” she continued. "We know that emotions are high and stress levels can lead to actions that are inappropriate and dangerous for our kids. So we urge you to seek help, ask for help and know there are people in the community who are here for you.”
Gingerbread House also is asking for the community’s help at this time. It has switched to emergency protocol, limiting the number of clients and families that can be seen each day.
This is to allow workers time to clean the facility. And Gingerbread House started to run out of cleaning supplies and reached out to the community for help.
“We had just been running through so many supplies and it’s very difficult to find cleaning supplies right now,” Miller said. “So we sent out an SOS to our community and were just overwhelmed with the response from the community to our partners.
"I get choked up thinking about it. It just shows that even in the middle of what we are going through, people are wanting to help and are ensuring that children who have suffered from abuse can still receive the services that they need. We are just so appreciative.”
Miller said they still need a few items if anyone would like to donate.
“We could still use some aerosol spray and some masks. Disposal masks would be great and Clorox wipes, anything like that would be great as well.”
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Call (318) 674-2900 to contact Gingerbreak House.