D'IBERVILLE (WLOX) -- Child abuse is a growing problem in South Mississippi and one that crosses all socio-economic boundaries. Last year alone, there were more than 18,000 cases of child abuse and neglect statewide. That includes 1500 in Harrison County and nearly a thousand in Jackson County.
Efforts are underway this month to call public attention to the growing problem.
"Hi, y'all want to help prevent child abuse?" said Laura Golovin-Greer, as she passed out pamphlets outside the D'Iberville Wal Mart.
Child advocates are campaigning.
"April is national child abuse awareness month," said Golovin-Greer, as she informed another shopper about the problem of abuse and neglect.
The Go Blue campaign is designed to help spread the word.
"We all talk about stranger danger. Well, the reality of it is the people who victimize our children are people we know and trust," said Golovin-Greer.
She should know. Her job is interviewing child victims; up to ten a week in Jackson County.
"Most perpetrators are known to the victim. For the most part, they're family members or close family friends, cause they have the most access to these children," she explained.
Public awareness means confronting an ugly reality that lurks in every neighborhood. Public service announcements help spread the word.
"We must hug them. We must empower them. We must keep them from harm," says the announcer in one such TV spot.
"Our children need our voice," said Gulfport social worker Kristian Clark.
She hears the horror stories daily. In the child interview room, victims of beatings or sexual abuse, as young as two years old, share their sad stories.
"We want to do a one stop, where all these people, agencies that need to know this information, to investigate and prosecute, are here when I conduct the interview so that we are not at a sterile, cold environment with a big policeman," Clark explains.
Child abuse cases are on the increase locally. Can you guess why?
"You're probably seeing the effects of the hurricane. You know, the stress levels in people's lives generally after the hurricane, I think, has caused an increase in domestic abuse, in violent acts in general," said Joel Smith with the district attorney's office.
Though perhaps painful to admit or discuss, that violence often involves our children.
"It is at our back doors. And we need to pay attention to it," says Clark.