April Puts Focus on Child Abuse, Sexual Assault

Child Abuse and Sexual Assault
April is Child Abuse and Sexual Assault banner | Image by Children's Advocacy Center

April marks awareness-building campaigns for both child abuse and sexual assault in Texas.

Two issues take the spotlight this April, with Texas agencies rolling out initiatives to prevent child abuse and draw attention to sexual assault.

Child Abuse Prevention Month is observed nationally each year to bring attention to this issue as well as the actors looking to prevent it and to provide resources to those it victimizes. Preventing a crisis before it occurs involves several types of actors, as a proclamation from Gov. Greg Abbott for last year’s Child Abuse Prevention Month explained.

“Ultimately, child abuse prevention cannot be relegated to a single community, agency, or system,” the governor wrote. “We each have a role to play as we work together to protect the most vulnerable among us. Behind many healthy, successful families is a strong community that enabled them to meet their own needs, and we must work together to strengthen our communities and build accessible, localized support systems.”

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has developed a tool kit of both awareness-building and preventative materials for all members of the community. For instance, it has generated a series of tips for parents and family members, ranging from encouraging them to have regular conversations with children to keep them safe and build up their confidence to reminding caregivers to make time for themselves.

DFPS is also encouraging everyone to wear blue on April 5 as part of “#GoBlueDay,” a statewide social media campaign aimed at giving Texans an opportunity to show their support for child abuse prevention. In February alone, the agency had conducted 12,168 investigations of alleged child abuse or neglect in Texas involving 19,547 alleged victims. Of these, neglect was suspected in over 67% of these cases, physical abuse in approximately 24%, and sexual abuse in nearly 19%.

This month also brings attention to sexual assault, with Gov. Abbott issuing a proclamation naming April “Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in Texas” to “help raise awareness of sexual assault, collaborate on efforts to prevent sexual violence, and recognize the courage of survivors across the state,” a news release stated.

Abbott also drew attention to the Governor’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force (SASTF), which has been running since 2019 with the aim of deploying “a survivor-centered, trauma-informed approach to sexual violence” to the benefit of Texas children and adults.

In Dallas, there have been 123 reports of sex offenses — including rape, fondling, sodomy, and sexual assault with an object — this year, according to the City’s crime analytics dashboard. The overwhelming majority of these victims are black and Hispanic women and girls, per City data.

A longstanding officer shortage within the Dallas Police Department has resulted in delayed responses to all sorts of crime, including the reporting of sexual assault, which is a necessary precursor to forensic examinations. To speed up the process, a new reporting protocol by telephone is being tested at Parkland Health, as previously covered by The Dallas Express. The City currently staffs around 3,000 officers even though a City report recommended a force closer to 4,000 officers.

Moreover, Dallas City officials approved DPD a budget of just $654 million this fiscal year, opting to spend far less on police than other high-crime jurisdictions, such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

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