Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo County raising awareness about child abuse cases
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and The Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo County in Edinburg is shedding light on the rising number of child abuse cases in the Rio Grande Valley.
Outside the center, 10 pinwheels represent children who have died last year due to abuse or neglect.
The biggest problem with reporting child abuse is that child abuse is a crime of secrecy, said Jesús Sánchez, the center’s interim director.
"We come from a culture where we don't want anyone else to know, what's happened. We try and keep everything within the family,” Sánchez said. “We try and solve all of our problems within our family."
According to Sánchez, most victims are abused by someone the victim knows. He wants families to know that it is always best to speak up.
The abuser might be the breadwinner and the family fears being homeless. However, Sánchez says that resources at the center help children find safety and justice by bringing them into an environment where they can speak about their abuse and then help facilitate help and law enforcement proceedings.
The walls of the center are painted with murals and individual hand prints of every kid that's visited.
"The hands on the wall to them [means] somebody else came to the center and a lot of times they look […] to see if there's somebody else who has their name or their age," Sánchez said.
According to Texas Child Protective Services, the state reported over 40,000 child abuse victims. Over 1,000 children were interviewed by center social workers just in Hidalgo and Starr counties.
"If it goes untreated, a lot of times what happens is that those young victims that were abused […] they start perpetrating on other victims,” Sánchez said.
Those victims could be the person’s sibling, it could be a family member or a neighbor.
To report child abuse or to receive support, Texas Child and Protective Services can be reached to their hotline at 1-800-252-5400.