SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Colorful toys built for little hands seeking fun are throughout a building for children who’ve had the color drained from their lives.
“The majority of the kids that we’ve seen are referred to us due to allegations of sexual abuse but we also see kids due to allegations of extreme physical abuse,” said Emily Miller, Executive Director for the Children’s Advocacy Center.
The Spartanburg-based organization also serves Cherokee and Union counties with the Department of Social Services and law enforcement referrals.
“Typically for the forensic evaluation and possibly a medical exam as well,” said Miller. “In 2012 we had 433 new referrals come in, and in 2018 we had 795.”
She said they’re also on track to exceed those numbers, having seen 10-12 percent increases each year.
“It’s hard to know exactly why. Is it happening that much more often? I don’t necessarily think that’s the case,” said Miller. “Historically, child abuse has always been under reported so it makes sense that as there’s greater awareness of the issue, there’s more people talking about it.”
She says there’s also better training for people working directly with kids, and while signs of abuse vary, they can be spotted.
Physical abuse signs may be more visible but sexual abuse may be less obvious.
“Kids might be withdrawn or you may see some of the opposite extreme – the acting out behaviors,” she said.
Miller added that potty trained kids may go back to bed wetting, very young children may have advanced sexual knowledge, and kids may show discomfort around their abuser.
“One indicator in isolation – I always like to say – doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s happening, but it’s cause for concern,” said Miller.
She says early intervention can prevent a long-term public health problem.
“We know there can be devastating consequences,” said Miller. “We also know that kids really can heal.”