Panhandle organization raising awareness during Child Abuse Prevention Month

SIDNEY, NE — April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month. An organization in the Panhandle wants to help spread awareness.

"The reason why it's super important to talk about is first of all to recognize it," PlainsWest CASA volunteer coordinator Whitney Whatley said. "You can't sweep it under the table. You can't pretend like it doesn't happen."

Whatley and her team of volunteers serve as advocates for children going through the court system, some of whom may end up there after being removed from an abusive situation.

"We bring their wants, their needs or their concerns to the judge," Whatley said. "A lot of times they've felt like they didn't have a voice. CASA is their voice."

Whatley says there are several signs to watch out for.

"Sudden change of behavior," she said. "Sudden and drastic change in behavior. Maybe the child is always nervous or watchful or an adults walks to them and they flinch or cower down."

Whatley says there are other more obvious signs, especially with physical abuse such as unexplained injuries. There can also be indicators from the parents, such as showing little interest in their child's activities or belittling or blaming the child for their issues in conversation. 

Whatley noted it' important to know there are multiple types of abuse which include emotional, physical, sexual, neglect and abandonment that can manifest themselves in different ways, leading to different signs.

Nebraska is a mandated report state child abuse. That means any Nebraskan who suspects child abuse is required to report it.

"By reporting you're hopefully getting that child the services, and the parent the services, that they need so they can fix whatever needs to be fixed and be reunified to end that cycle," Whatley said.

As part of the education effort, pinwheels can be found around Sidney as part of pinwheels for prevention.

While the topic may be difficult to discuss, those talks are vital so everyone can help prevent abuse since kids can carry those traumatic memories with them for years, perhaps starting a cycle of abuse with future family members

"If you see it in the driveway or outside the home, imagine what it's like behind closed doors," Whatley said. 

If you suspect a child may be suffering from abuse, call 800-652-1999.