KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Child advocacy centers play an integral part in child abuse cases by working alongside law enforcement, families and communities. During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, multiple organizations express the work being done for child victims in East Tennessee.
“[The children] get a medical examine, if needed, ongoing therapy services and advocacy services that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise,” said Ashley Fontenot, marketing and development director at New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center.
Childhelp’s Director of Organizational Advancement Eddie Smith said the organization was one of the first advocacy centers in Tennessee.
“It’s something that we see right here in Knoxville, something that we dealt with,” Smith said. “Over the last year our child advocacy center has served a little over 1,500 children just in Knox County, 71 percent of those kids have suffered sexual abuse.”
There are several signs that people should look for if they believe a child is a victim of abuse.
“When children start not being allowed to go around their school groups or their athletic groups, whenever withdraw starts to happen that something that people need to be concerned about,” Smith said. “For teachers, it’s when students aren’t coming to school. there is no communication happening.”
Schools play a critical part in reporting child abuse cases.
“When COVID happened and everybody went back to school afterward we got an influx of cases here because the teachers were that kind of point between home and school,” Fontenot said. “They were able to see what was really happening when the students came back and we got a lot of cases reported.”
In Blount County, there is an abuse coordinator stationed at every school. Each coordinator’s job is to know the steps or process of what to do if a case is reported.
New Hope is hosting several events during April, including the Ice Cream for Prevention on April 25 from 2-7 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre Coffee & Ice Cream Parlor. There are other events like the Heroes for Hope 5k & Fun Run on April 29 at 8:30 p.m.