South Mississippi has the highest child abuse rates in the state

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - The numbers are appalling. In Harrison County, 742 children were abused last year, Jackson County 551 and Hancock County 275 according to the Department of Human Services.

Luckily there are several organizations in the community that are working to try and combat the problem. The South Mississippi Child Abuse Prevention Center (CAP) is one of those.

Everyday children come to the center. They color pictures or play with cars, then comes the tough part. The children are asked to open up about abuse they have suffered.

"It is very tough at times," Forensic Interviewer Tiffany Lizana said. "We always keep a box of Kleenex in the room, and I find I have to pull from it quite frequently."

Lizana admits it is difficult to hear what these children have been through.

"We see mostly sexual abuse. Almost every case, the child knows the perpetrator," said Lizana.

It is important the children have someone to talk to for healing so those responsible can be brought to justice in hopes they can't hurt another child.

"The CAP center gets referrals from law enforcement or DHS," Programs Director Keiana Lock said. "They get those from a caregiver or sometimes an outside source. We do forensic interviews, and then the process is turned over to law enforcement so that they can finish the investigation."

The non-profit organization also takes a proactive approach to child abuse. One way is by educating people on abuse, especially parents.

"There are age appropriate methods that can be taught to the children so they aren't scared. They do not know things they should not know at their age," Lock said.

Counseling is also offered for at risk families. Lock believes that is vital because she thinks stress is part of the reason the numbers are so high in South Mississippi.

"A lot of the economic troubles have started from Hurricane Katrina, the oil spill. So, a lot of the families have deficits in those types of situations within their family," Lock said.

Last year, the Child Abuse Prevention Center conducted 270 interviews.

To learn more about the center and the services they provide click on the link:

If you suspect a child is being abused, you should call police right away or you can call 1-800-222-800, you can remain anonymous if you choose.

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