While statistics about child abuse and neglect in Kentucky are alarming, experts say progress is being made across the Commonwealth to educate parents, child care and health care providers, and law enforcement on how to both spot and address the problem.
In 2015, nearly 18,000 Kentucky children experienced neglect and more than 2,500 experienced physical or sexual abuse, 74 of whom died or were seriously injured. Tracy Fuchs, director of marketing and special events with the Family Nurturing Center in Northern Kentucky, said moving the focus beyond "stranger danger" to sexual abuse is important.
"It's a taboo topic. It makes us feel uncomfortable to even hear somebody talk about it, but the fact is 90 percent of children who are sexually abused are done so by someone they know or trust,” Fuchs said. "This discomfort that we have in it, it's exactly what the perpetrators want. They want this culture of silence."
One way Kentucky is raising awareness is through the Face It movement, which was launched four years ago this month by Kosair Charities. The initiative, which promotes best practices in child abuse prevention and intervention, now involves more than three dozen nonprofit groups, educational institutions, and government agencies.
Jerry Ward, chair of the Kosair Charities board, said the spike in abuse and neglect cases set off alarm bells. That was the spark that ignited Face It, which reaches parents, children, and professionals.
"We've got an organized effort throughout the Commonwealth to address this plague and we're seeing a very positive result and it continues to grow,” Ward said.
The state recently reported the number of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect increased 55 percent over a four year period. Ward said he believes awareness raised by Face It is a big reason why.
"Part of it is because people are addressing the issues,” he said. "The teachers are taught to watch out for signs of child abuse, signs of sexual abuse. The daycare centers are taught. The medical community is taught."
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.