Agency: Most South MS child abuse cases don't make the news

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - More and more, you see news stories about people accused of child abuse. The Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse says for each one you hear about, there are so many more that don't make the news.

In April alone, the agency interviewed 58 children from across South Mississippi about possible sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect. Officials say the handling of abuse cases shouldn't make an already emotional ordeal worse for a child.

"I Can't Talk About It" is a book about little girl who finds the courage to tell someone she is being abused.  The executive director for the Center For the Prevention of Child Abuse said the agency is part of a team that allows children to tell their stories once at the center, instead of repeatedly answering questions for doctors, police officers, and prosecutors.

"You can well imagine a young child, an older child, or an adult that sexual abuse, physical abuse or any kind of victimization does leave scars," said Tammy Brinkley. "It's not as traumatizing as it is to be in a police station, or be in the back of a car, or to be in the hospital. "

A room full of art supplies is designed to make children feel more at ease during questioning. Cameras allow social workers and prosecutors to watch from another room.

Brinkley said, "There can be no leading questions asked. It is not therapeutic, but we are asking the child to 'Tell me what happened' without delivering them to the answer."

A child's sudden extreme change in behavior is a red flag Brinkley said parents and teachers should look for as an indication something is wrong.

"The biggest thing I like to tell parents especially and teachers is listen to a child," Brinkley said. "Always make sure you see a child because then you don't have to doubt them. Children deserve and need to be heard. You can't ever say, 'Well, I thought that wasn't true.' When children speak, it's not that fun to make up this traumatic kind of personal experience."

The Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse has offices in Gulfport and Hattiesburg. Officials say they only investigate cases referred by the Department of Human Services or law enforcement.

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