‘Their bodies don’t lie’: The Bridge seeing an increase in reported child abuse

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 5:34 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Now that we’re out of the pandemic, The Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center is seeing an increase in children in the Panhandle reporting abuse.

During COVID-19, most children were at home, which is where most children are abused, by someone they know and trust.

“I think once they did go back to school, we saw those children have a safe space to be able to tell someone, a safe adult or another child that did eventually report it,” said Amy Rhoades, board member and first assistant criminal DA for Randall County.

Last year, The Bridge performed over 1,300 forensic interviews on children from the top 26 counties in the Panhandle.

Most of the cases showing an increase are sexual abuse.

“We have seen an increase in the physical abuse cases, not in the numbers, but in the severity of the injuries that these children are receiving and a pattern of abuse, physical abuse, which we termed torture,” said Rhoades.

The Bridge says they have also seen very young children run away from home and when found, say they do not want to return home.

“They don’t want these behaviors to happen any longer and we’re finding some very significant injuries to their bodies and so it’s very telling what these children are experiencing, their bodies don’t lie,” said Shelly Bohannon, executive director, The Bridge.

Bohannon says many of the cases are a result of stressors.

“The way that people respond when they’ve lost their income or those types of things, a lot of the same types of behavior were seen in the Depression era and is what we’re starting to see with children,” said Bohannon.

If the abuse isn’t happening in the home, The Bridge says it could be happening online.

The center says the most important thing parents can do is keep communication open, with everything.

“If they’re comfortable communicating with you about that, then they’re going to be comfortable communicating with you about those things that make them feel unsafe,” said Rhoades.

Each month, we’ll have exclusive segments with The Bridge, regarding child safety.

The topic for April is gun safety and children.