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Kentucky Urged to "Face It," Reduce High Child-Abuse Numbers

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Experts say talking to your child about their bodies, body safety, and personal boundaries is key to keeping them safe from abuse. (@hjohan1213/Twenty20)
Experts say talking to your child about their bodies, body safety, and personal boundaries is key to keeping them safe from abuse. (@hjohan1213/Twenty20)
 By Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY - Producer, Contact
April 8, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Kentucky ranks number one in the country for cases of child abuse, according to the latest U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report.

In response to the report, state organizations are banding together to raise awareness of child-abuse prevention. Carla Hay is a pediatric forensic nurse at Kentucky Children's Hospital. Hay said unexplained injuries, or injuries that don't match the given explanation, should be a red flag.

"People need to be aware that any bruising to the torso, ears, and neck of a child 4 years or under, or bruising anywhere on a child 4 months old or younger, needs to raise concern,” Hay said. “These bruises are significant indicators of abuse."

Neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment, and sexual abuse are all forms of child abuse. In 2017, more than 20,000 children in Kentucky were victims. Ninety-five percent of cases involved child neglect, according to the federal report.

Hay pointed out older children and teens can also display signs that may be linked to abuse.

"You know, we can't forget adolescents, the signs that may be more specific to them,” she said. “We see self injury, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, depression, running away, eating disorder, and suicide attempts."

Hay said high-profile media coverage of child-abuse cases, along with initiatives like the "Face It" movement, are contributing to a societal shift in people's willingness to speak openly about child abuse.

The Face It movement, started by Kosair Charities, aims to raise awareness about abuse prevention and intervention. Its "Body Safety 101" guide educates parents, caregivers, doctors and law enforcement on early-warning signs of child abuse.

Kosair President Keith Inman said groups around the state are working year-round to reduce the prevalence of child abuse in Kentucky.

"This region is very sports crazy, and we like to be number one in basketball or number one in football. We certainly don't want to be number one in abuse and neglect,” Inman said. “That's the reason that Kosair Charities made a bold move in 2013 to do this. And since then, we've brought together 70 organizations around the state focused on trying to improve those numbers."

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call Kentucky's Child Protection Hotline at 1-877-KYSAFE1.

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