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First Light highlighting importance of child abuse awareness

A goal of Child Abuse Awareness Month is to help people see signs of abuse.
First Light Child Advocacy Center assists individuals dealing with sexual assault and abuse.
First Light Child Advocacy Center assists individuals dealing with sexual assault and abuse.(ksnb)
Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 8:17 AM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The month of April is recognized as Child Abuse Awareness Month and the First Light Child Advocacy Center in Grand Island uses the month as an opportunity to make people aware that abuse happens in our community and how to recognize signs of abuse.

First Light primarily sees sexual abuse cases in people of all ages however it can only see kids referred by Health and Human Services or law enforcement. The Executive Director, Shannon Krejci, wants people to know that although they can’t refer someone to First Light they can still be an eye in the community and report potential cases of abuse or assault.

If you think you see signs of abuse you can call the Nebraska Hotline of Child Abuse: 1-800-652-1999. According to Krejci, abuse is something prevalent in the community that people should know takes place.

“Because it’s so common in our community I don’t think people realize how often this is occurring,” Krejci said. “We are seeing children everyday and primarily the cases we’re seeing are for sexual abuse.”

In 2020 First Light conducted 281 forensic interviews, which it does following an instance of sexual abuse or the filing of criminal charges. That number [281] was a 15 percent increase from the previous year. Twenty-six percent of the interviews conducted were for children five years old or younger and 91 percent of those cases knew who their abuser was.

“This isn’t just happening in some big city,” Krejci said. “I’s all socioeconomic levels, all races, this is occurring and it could be your neighbor, it could be anybody, it could be somebody in your family.”

The center not only conducts forensic interviews it also gives sexual assault exams if a sexual assault occurred within the last 72 to 120 hours. The center also does hair follicle tests and has advocates that are alongside children throughout the court process or simply to act as a support system between the family, the center and Government.

Again, the number to call and report potential cases of sexual abuse or assault is 1-800-652-1999.

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